by Diana López
pub date: June 11, 2013
pub date: June 11, 2013
Erica Montenegro, known by her nickname "Chia", is used to only having to worry about her witty t-shirt collection, her annoying younger siblings Carmen and Jimmy, "close encounters" with cute boys, and her expansive Chia pet collection. All that changes the summer before eighth grade when Erica learns her mother has breast cancer. When her family journeys to a special church, to pray for her mother to be healed, Chia makes a promesa to God in el cuarto de milagros (the Miracle Room) that in thanks for her mother surviving cancer, she will make a sacrifice. When Chia decides her sacrifice will be participating in the Race for the Cure breast cancer awareness walk, as well as getting 500 sponsors for the walk, she knows it will take effort. But walking in the hot San Antonio sun is harder than she thought, and getting people to open their doors and hear her out--let alone sponsor her--seems nearly impossible.
As if all that stress isn't enough, know-it-all Carmen has skipped a grade and joins Chia in middle school. With her mother's energy sapped from chemo treatments, Chia, as the oldest, has to take on additional responsibilities while her father is at work. It's a lot to deal with for 13-year old Chia, especially since all her teacher now seem to expect her to be some sort of genius because Carmen shines in school. And taking care of 3-year-old Jimmy "Gimme" means keeping an eye on him constantly. When is Chia supposed to have time to do her homework, not to mention have fun? All the worries and responsibilities begin to weigh on Chia who can't even turn to her friends, the Robins, for support as they don't seem to understand how she feels. When your mood ring seems to know you better than the people around you, what are you supposed to do?
While the subject matter may seem heavy, Lopez deftly balances it with lots of humor, making this story read less like a problem novel and more like a realistic reflection of reality. It's refreshing to see a story with a Latina protagonist whose culture is integral to the story, but the plot is not about racism or prejudice. Chia is also a noteworthy heroine in that she is not bookish or an overachiever at school, but a very average girl. Though I love bookish protagonists, it's nice to see someone different. Lastly, the inclusion of faith--with a very light hand--is also nice to see since religion and spirituality play such an important role in so many children's lives, but is rarely seen in children's books. Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel is a successful blend of a middle school drama and family novel, making it a good choice for older middle grade or younger YA readers who enjoy contemporary realistic fiction.