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Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 6, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community.

LB School Podcast

Laekan Zea Kemp From Teaching to Writing

In 2017, during my second year in the classroom, one of my ESL students came to my desk–we’ll call him Adan–and asked me if I could help him write a text message. As an ESL teacher, I was used to helping students write all kinds of things in English–emails, birthday cards, job applications. Once I even had a student ask me to help her write a love letter to a boy she secretly admired.

So I told Adan that of course I would help him and he proceeded to hand me his phone. As I read the text message he’d just receive
d he attempted to explain the situation as best he could. But it was clear from the apology I was reading that the person he was texting with had said some horrible things to him.


“Wonderfully realized characters, a vibrant setting, and so much more. I loved this.”—Melina Marchetta, award-winning author of Jellicoe Road

“Pen and Xander will steal your heart. One to savor.”—Laura Taylor Namey, author of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

“A bold new voice to watch in children’s fiction.”—Eric Smith, author of Don’t Read the Comments

“An affecting, timely debut….Add it to your 2021 TBR list immediately.”—Liz Lawson, author of The Lucky Ones

“Like the delicious food and decadent desserts described within its pages, Kemp’s debut explores the often bitter and sweet complexity of family, new love, and what it means to find home. “—Mia García, author of The Resolutions

“Pen and Xander’s unforgettable love story refuses to sugarcoat difficult topics, but instead deftly explores them with a thoughtful hand. A cathartic read and new favorite author.”— Nina Moreno, author of Don’t Date Rosa Santos

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