As she tries to unlock her sister's computer and discover the reasons for her Olga's hidden clothes or why she never managed to finish community college, Julia uncovers many details of her parents' journey to America. Having lost one daughter, Julia's mother restricts her social life and begins planning a belated quinceanera, while Julia herself regrets her resentment toward Olga when she was alive.
Throughout the novel, Julia experiences her first kiss, her first love, and a new appreciation for her family's struggle. Yet, unable to deal with her own grief, she falls into a deep depression, resulting in a tragic decision of her own. That choice causes her parents to send her to live for a few weeks with her Mexican grandmother where more family secrets and sadness bubble to the surface.
This book goes from one heartache to another, yet I always believed that Julia would persevere because of her grit and determination to write her own narrative. She is not always likable, and some reviewers have frowned upon her as an unlikeable protagonist. To me, that is the very thing that makes her real. Julia is not perfect or cliche, and her flaws give her a humanity that does not evoke pity. Her character is a mirror and a message for all readers regardless of our culture or gender.