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Sal and Gabi #1

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

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How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker?

When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal's office for the third time in three days, and it's still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany's locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.

Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he's capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken--including his dead mother--and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There's only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.

A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in this mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

382 pages, ebook

First published March 5, 2019

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About the author

Carlos Hernandez

45 books243 followers
SFF writer, English prof. and game designer/enthusiast.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

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5 stars
2,759 (43%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,214 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 259 books409k followers
January 30, 2019

Sal and Gabi’s Excellent Universe-Destroying Adventure

You know how I can tell when a book is great?

When I can’t even describe it to you without ruining the marvelous surprises. I mean . . . I could try to explain why Gabi’s father is called Lightning Dad, or why Sal’s teacher Dr. Doctorpants dresses like a gumball machine, or even why Sal’s physicist father and his not-quite-human assistant Bonita are building a remembranation machine in the living room. But you’d never believe me. You’d accuse me of making up cacaseca. You definitely wouldn’t believe me if I told you how that dead chicken got in Yasmany’s locker.

Was it sleight-of-hand? Was it actual magic? Was it, oh, I don’t know . . . something scarier? Something that might rip apart the universe and cause a cosmic mess so big even a super custodian like Mr. Milagros can’t clean up?

You’ll just have to dive into the story and find out for yourself.

You’re about to meet Sal Vidón. He’s recently moved to from Connecticut to Miami with his dad and American Stepmom because . . . well, let’s just say things got complicated when Sal’s mom, his real mom, changed from Mami Viva to Mami Muerta.

It’s never easy to switch schools, even if Culeco Academy of the Arts seems much cooler than his old school. Sal gets to study for his dream job: becoming the world’s greatest magician, while his classmates are all dancers, musicians, actors, costume designers and even a film director creating a cinematic masterpiece on the history of wedgies. Unfortunately, Sal’s problems did not stop when he moved from Connecticut. He still has to monitor his diabetes with his private med kit and his emergency pack of Skittles. He’s been to the principal’s office every day for things that totally were not his fault. His classmates look at him strangely, like they’re afraid he might be a brujo.

Then there’s Gabi Reál -- student council president, editor of the school paper – whom Sal either finds fascinating or wants to run away from at lightspeed. He’s not sure yet. All he does know: Gabi seems to suspect about Sal’s deepest, darkest secrets. She is determined to find out more about this strange new kid who is able to pull impossible tricks. Can Sal and Gabi trust each other? They’ll have to figure that out if they want to survive the year without, you know, ruining their reputations at school and wrecking the space-time continuum.

Welcome to Culeco Academy -- a world only Carlos Hernandez could dream up! I can’t reveal all its secrets, not without ruining the fun. But one thing I can promise you: After reading about Sal and Gabi’s marvelous universe, you’re going to want to move there!
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
November 27, 2020
[Book #4 for my grad school YA class: a sci-fi & middle grade book]
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
August 12, 2023
Sal Vidon is a talented magician and proud of it!

Unfortunately, he also happens to be a magician who just lost his Mami, had to move to a new school and is having a hard time fitting in.

Being the new kid in school can be tough and Sal quickly finds himself on the wrong side of a notorious bully, Yasmany.

During a confrontation, Sal performs his trickiest of tricks yet. He makes a raw chicken appear in Yasmany's locker!

Such antics end up having the opposite effect he was hoping for however, when the other kids begin accusing him of being a brujo. Now they're all afraid of him.

Of him! Sal Vidon, the kindest, most gentlest human in the world.

While pleading his case in the Principal's office, again, Sal meets Gabi Real for the first time.

Gabi swoops in like a hurricane. Smart, determined and funny, Sal thinks, this is somebody I can work with.

Over the course of the story, Sal and Gabi's relationship grows as they reveal more about themselves to each other and come to rely on one another for support.

Sal is still struggling with the grief of losing his Mami and Gabi has an infant brother fighting for his life at a local NICU.

I was so impressed with this book. The writing style is fantastic, very fluid and easy to read.

I LOVED the characters. Sal is one of the sweetest characters in any book EVER and Gabi is a true force to be reckoned with!

As a Middle Grade novel, I feel that this is an excellent introduction to the science-fiction genre, as well, exploring the idea of multiple dimensions and the travel between them.

I loved that aspect of the story and thought it was really well done. There were just enough scifi elements to make it that type of story without becoming overwhelming for readers who may be new to the genre.

My favorite aspect of this story however, was definitely the humor!!

I was laughing out loud from the very beginning and it never let up. The characters are so witty and fun. Very well done by Hernandez.

Another piece of this I really appreciated was the presence of such strong adult characters. I feel like often in YA or Middle Grade stories, the adults are either absent, or not very nice people.

Not the case here. The adults were great, supportive influences in the kid's lives and that was nice to see. I think it sets a good example, not just for young readers, but for the adults reading as well.

This being said, even though this is a Middle Grade book, and I am far from that age group, this has been one of my most enjoyable reads of the year.

Keep in mind people, there is no age limit on fun!

Everyone needs to read this.
Go ahead, now...

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and was truly impressed with this one!
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
November 10, 2020
I think 9-year-old me would have loved this book. My 4x older self is much too old and cynical and irritable for it.
“The real way to deal with a bully is to stick a raw chicken in their locker.”
Because you really should read about precocious, quirky, overly energetic and enthusiastic kids when you are their age (and I read it only for completist sake in my Hugo-Nebula nominees reading project this year). As an adult, you get an annoying migraine from this hurricane of preteen precociousness and the desire to hide in a quiet room from all the overly enthusiastic and extra-witty preteen banter. (And if I never hear kids referring to everything as “sandwich this” and “sandwich that”, I’ll die happy.)
“My whole family had had to move out of our house in Connecticut because of all the weird stuff that kept emerging from another universe (PS: Unicorns are real, and they are just as unhousebroken as regular horses), but like I said, it was only that one time.”

Also, the sheer abundance of weird disjointed plotlines all squished together made my head hurt. Magic + parallel universes + possibly evil alternate selves + resurrection of dead mothers + baby brother in NICU + domestic violence + preteen attraction + robot parents + a girl who without proper distractions will grow up to be a terrifying dictator + diabetes + sentient AI... There are certainly more things that escape me now, and they are all stirred into a swirling mix of stuff that I can’t even bother to think about since so many of them being superficial and inconsequential and ultimately lackluster. Honestly, this book should have been half of its length with half of the plotlines (or even fewer) and it would have been more cohesive and more enjoyable.
Do you see the book cover with all the super-bright neon color flashy abundance? That’s *exactly* how this book feels.

Also, despite the interesting title, no universes were harmed in the making of this story. Not even a tiniest bit of the universe is broken. There may be a gentle suggestion that ripping holes in the fabric of universe may eventually be a bad idea, but there is never any danger or urgency or anything that suggests that anything besides a fun and safe kids adventure is at stake.

Plus, can I vote Gabi to be one of the pushiest and the most annoying characters I’ve ever read about? I think she’s supposed to be smart and driven and self-assured, but what I got was the annoyingly disturbing image of a young wannabe dictator in the making.

2 stars from my adult self.

My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Gavin Hetherington.
673 reviews6,132 followers
May 24, 2020
I absolutely loved Sal and Gabi, I just wish they, I dunno... actually broke the universe?

Sal is a 'magician', he can rip a hole in the universe and pluck something out from another universe, like a dead chicken to put in his bully's locker. Gabi is a girl at school who seems to know everything about everyone, and when Sal comes into her life, she becomes intrigued that she has found someone who mystifies her. We explore these characters and their lives with some very, very interesting and surprising results.

This is way more contemporary with sci-fi elements, as someone pointed out to me when I read this on an Instagram live, and I wholeheartedly agree. There were some very interesting developments with Sal's ability and what he's able to do with them, but beyond that, this is mainly set at middle school with the characters taking centre stage. Nothing wrong with that since I absolutely loved the characters.

Sal is actually hilarious and so charismatic and makes for an excellent narrator. I loved his dynamic with Gabi and how they bounced off each other - she can really hold her own against him. They both have a lot of things they're going through - and have gone through - so it was beautiful to see their friendship grow throughout.

But I felt the title was extremely misleading due to the fact there is no true breaking of the universe. If I'd known that going in, I wouldn't have gone through this book just waiting for when it was going to happen. There are things Sal and Gabi does that has some consequence, and there are rules for the universes to stay balanced, but there's no big breaking of it. So, maybe it happens in the sequel? I wouldn't consider this a spoiler because I would have wanted to know going in to this that the universe doesn't break. Maybe then it would have curbed my disappointment somewhat.

But still, 4/5 because the characters kept me reading til the very end and I look forward to picking up the sequel.
Profile Image for Jessie_Book.
148 reviews
November 28, 2018
I've read a few of the other Rick Riordan Presents books but I never finished them. They felt like diet Rick Riordan and like they didn't stand on their own all that well. This book I think dodged that problem effortlessly. It has science instead of magic and for the most part it felt like it was doing its own thing. Sal and Gabi are such a delight to read. I think that they are the most respectful and well mannered thirteen year olds I have ever read.

While I was reading it I kept wishing that I was more like them when I was that age. But alas that can never be. But at least this book can be a guide for younger readers. I honestly think that Sal and Gabi are great role models that anyone should strive to be like.

This book also cracked me up. I was reading it on a long car ride with my family and I think about drove them half mad. Every few of minutes I would giggle or just burst out laughing. I'm one of those people who when the days get shorter and colder I go into a slump. I get sad and kind of moody. This book was the first thing to make me laugh in a while and I cant wait for it to come out so I can share it with more people!
Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
610 reviews5,663 followers
September 8, 2019
A cute middle grade read full of quirky characters and moments. At times it dragged on, but the audiobook narrator told this story wonderfully and really brought it to life.
Profile Image for jocelyn.
428 reviews247 followers
November 23, 2019
This book is a perfect example of why I will be screaming about the Rick Riordan Presents imprint until the end of time.

I love it when adults remember to behave themselves. They forget all the time, you know. Hard to blame them, though. They haven't been kids in so long.

Hernandez has created a book that is fun, accessible, and exciting like so many other middle grade stories, but the addition of it being ownvoices for the Cuban-American representation, as well as showing (from what I can tell from diabetic reviewers) a realistic depiction of someone with type 1 diabetes, makes it fresh and necessary for its modern audience.

There is so much here about family, grief and loss, and of course, the idea of multiverses, that is sure to work for middle readers. Not to mention that every character in this book is complex but most especially our main two protagonists.

On the one hand you have Sal, a quick-witted, magician-in-training who can literally open the doors to other universes and swap things out. He, his father, and step mother, recently moved to Miami. And while he is still dealing with the what life looks like without his mother - who died a few years before - the relationship between him and American Stepmom was all sorts of heart warming. And on the other there's Gabi, a smart young feminist who's already thinking about law school. She's surrounded by a whole host of paternal figures and her huge family is dealing with their own difficulties with her younger brother in NICU.

Throughout this story these two meet, strike up a friendship, and, well... break the universe. It turns out that Sal's opening these doors isn't as clean as he originally thought. There are these little things called calamitrons and a big portion of them are left behind after Sal accidentally (and not for the first time) brings back his mother, or as he refers to her, Mami Muerta.

I liked the idea that some of Mami's particles were still floating around in our house. She wasn't all the way gone. I never wanted Mami to be all the way gone.

There's a good amount of serious issues handled here, but I think it's really tempered by both the tone of the story, and also just the amount of wholesome goodness. There is so much support here - both in Sal and Gabi's families - and the love is overflowing. It's a good reminder that even though things might not always be great, you always have people you can count on.

I love Sal and Gabi and their dynamic. I love what they teach each other. I love the way they have grown so much already. And I am absolutely craving book two.
Profile Image for Books on Stereo.
1,268 reviews174 followers
March 15, 2019
Sal and Gabi are delightfully charming, but are, unfortunately, trapped in a lackluster plot.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,321 reviews285 followers
June 28, 2019
Reco for 10+
Hilarious, but with a lot of real issues.
Heavens: ETA, the kids are dealing with both paranormal and real-life type issues. Characters are so lovable.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
September 1, 2020
4.5 stars. This was terrific! Full of humour, great observations and characterization, Carlos Hernandez gives us Sal and Gabi, two students. Sal is new at his school, and has to get used to his teachers and classmates. He and his family moved to Miami after he lost his mother to illness, and his father's remarriage. There's no unpleasant drama here, as everyone in the family loves and cares about each other. Sal also has Type 1 diabetes, so has to constantly monitor what he injests.
After Sal is bullied by a fellow student, he meets meets Gabi, and she's both brilliant and hilarious. She's also intense, curious, has a strong sense of right and wrong, and has myriad interests, and, as Sal later finds out, an interesting family.
This story made me happy; Sal is funny, and Gabi's, well, everything about her made me love her.
This could just have been a story about Sal's introduction to a new school, his love of magic, and his budding friendship with Gabi. Hernandez also includes physics, multiverses, artificial intelligences, and if that weren't enough, deals with some pretty serious topics over the course of the this story: death of a parent, dealing with the ill health of a family member, type 1 diabetes, child abuse, bullying, starting over in a new town and making new relationships, unconventional familial relationships, and growing up.
I love the world Carlos Hernandez has created here; Sal and Gabi are wonderful characters, and I love how they become friends, and how their families become friends. I also absolutely loved how comfortable Sal is in expressing his feelings, and in taking responsibility for his actions.
And something that I really appreciated was how the adults in these two people's lives are caring, funny, loving, and how the kids and parents really love and rely on each other. By the end of the story, we have a community with Sal and Gabi at the centre, with their parents and teachers around them, caring, supporting, and helping them grow.
Profile Image for Cory Marie.
261 reviews94 followers
April 16, 2020
I’m so ecstatic for the multitudes of kids who will get to experience stories like this. Rick Riordan Presents books are so incredibly important and fun. Sal and Gabi is not about any sort of mythology but it is chalk full of culture, and is surprisingly very deep and heartfelt.
Profile Image for Alyshondra.
258 reviews9 followers
November 1, 2018

I just can not even with this book. It's one of my very favorite books I've read all year. Pretty much everyone I know will be getting this as a gift as soon as it comes out, kids and adults.

It was so incredibly delightful. I kept trying to savor it, to enjoy it and have it simmering in the back of my mind all day, but last night I hit the 3/4 mark and just stayed up late finishing it. I woke up my partner, laughing so hard that the bed shook. I also cried. I can NOT BELIEVE how many emotions this book made me feel.

Favorite quotes:

“You learn as you grow up that everybody needs help. The sooner you ask the people you love to lend you a hand, the easier life becomes.

That’s the secret. Trust in the people who love you. We can all figure it out together.”

"Abracadabra, chicken plucker"

"Sometimes, when it's too hard, when it hurts too much, only silliness can save us."

"When that day comes, it comes. Till then, rejoice in life, time and again."

Featured in this book:
How to deal with bullies
So much amazing Cuban food that I want in my mouth
One Thousand Dads
A diabetic protagonist
Excellent Feminist shirts and very very cool barrettes
So many dad puns
How To Meditate in a very useful way
a knock-your-socks-off Everyman play
Grownups who are trying their best and are human, and show emotions
WHERE was this school when I was growing up, I want it, I'll teach or janitor or whatever now, lemme in.
The Sweetest Baby
A Snarky AI
So much snark, all the snark.

This is the trouble* with getting ARCs - I'm SO EXCITED for book two, but book one isn't even out yet!!

I'm giving this to my 7yo as soon as he gets home from school, and I can't wait to talk to him about it.

Carlos Hernandez has captured so much of what I love. Yes, yes, yes. More please.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,714 followers
October 13, 2020
This is, hands down, my favourite book of 2020.
I had the best fun reading this book and everyone needs to read this.

- Follows Sal, a Cuban-American and diabetic boy, who magically places a dead chicken in his classmate's locker. While at the principal office, in comes Gabi, a Cuban-American girl who barges in and announces herself as the bully's lawyer. From there, the two kindle a friendship - and chaos ensues.
- I can't even really describe what this book is about - and I mean that in a good way. I mean, it's about friendship, it's about family, it's about grappling with grief, and it's about parallel universes. This book throws you into the deep end (or, Sal's third day in his new school) and takes you for a wild ride.
- This book is just incredibly clever and witty. I laughed SO MUCH reading this book - the humour is absolutely on point and I just. I laughed so much. This is also a book where the children are absolutely smarter than the adults, and it is glorious and hilarious.
- While this book is, for the most part, light-hearted and feels so homey with so much Cuban culture and Cuban mothers who want to feed you, there are also some really gut-wrenching and emotional moments too. I loved this balance.
- I just didn't want to leave Sal and Gabi and their shenanigans. I was so sad that this book was over - but excited that there's a sequel!! I can't WAIT.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Ilsen Leon.
230 reviews55 followers
May 21, 2020
5 stars!!

This is such a heartwarming middle grade. I would say it’s more of a contemporary with a sci-fi twist. The characters are so fleshed out. And the Latinx Cuban rep!!! *chef’s kiss* I expected more adventure but I still love this school style setting that just had sci-fi antics and plenty of character development. I’m excited to read the next one!!
Profile Image for Claire.
798 reviews93 followers
May 14, 2019
ELEVEN HUNDRED STARS. I truly, truly loved this book. I want to read it again right now. There was honestly not a single thing I did not adore. It was funny and smart and had SO MUCH HEART.

I super enjoyed THE ASSIMILATED CUBAN'S GUIDE TO QUANTUM SANTERIA a few years ago -- and rec'd it on a Geek Girl Con RA panel! -- but I'd never have guessed that Carlos Hernandez could make the leap to middle grade so beautifully.

I just. I don't even know where to start with a review because I'm all just flailing limbs of delight. What was my favorite thing, even? Gabi's multiple dads, who are basically Flourite from Steven Universe? Gabi, the ultimate Hermione Granger fix-it? Almost every single adult? The school?? Sal's character growth and essential goodness despite sometimes being a thoughtless jerk? I can't possibly choose.

I can't wait for the second one.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,392 reviews
September 16, 2019
1.5 stars Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC! This book was odd. Every time I felt like I had a handle on it, some new twist or new quirk got thrown in. I did like Sal & Gabi. They were clever and silly. However, I just didn’t really understand the purpose of the book or the story. I guess it taught a lesson. I guess it was humorous. I guess it was a fantasy and had creative elements. It just had too much of the fantasy elements where I thought-ok why is that in there? Like why have the portable machine AND the big machine in his house? I didn’t see much purpose for the big machine, honestly. )Im sure that seems confusing, but I’m trying not to give too much away and ruin the book for anyone who wants to read it.) I also can’t imagine any middle grade kids getting into this book and this story and sticking with it. There’s even a lot of Spanish that is not defined for you, which would be problematic for young readers. I did like that the main character was diabetic, but he kind of got on my nerves with it after a while, and I’m also a type 1 juvenile diabetic, so that’s saying something if I couldn’t stomach that about him.
My 11 year-old will read just about anything, but I wouldn’t give him this book; I can’t see him getting anything out of it. I had to force myself to finish it. I am sure a lot of thought and creativity went into this book; I just couldn’t get into it and can’t think of anyone I’d recommend it to.
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
July 19, 2020
5 stars

Books like Sal and Gabi are the reason why I constantly keep coming back to middle-grade stories. This novel really reminded me that this age group has so much to offer. I absolutely adored everything in this book from the characters and their relationships, to the world, to the plot, and the writing style. And truly, I just had so much fun with this book. It was an absolute joy.

I adored Sal right from page one. Carlos Hernandez does a really good job of nailing down Sal's voice right in the first chapter, which definitely played a role in my quickly becoming attached to him. He's now my emotional support middle-grade protagonist. He's just,,, so pure and all he wants is to be nice to people and show off his magic tricks and I love him!! with my entire heart!! His relationship with his parents is written so well and I love it so much??? Absolutely love seeing a healthy parent/child relationship in fiction!! Also, Sal, like many other characters in this book, is bilingual and I really loved the way that was written and incorporated!!

I also really loved his friendship with Gabi. I feel like Sal and Gabi might as well be the definition of the phrase "opposites attract" and I think that's what made their friendship so compelling for me. The development of it also really surprised me because I really wasn't expecting the turns that Carlos Hernandez chose to take with their friendship. But that only made me appreciate it all the more. And of course, I absolutely adored Gabi herself. She's passionate and she's driven, but also her character is just very,,, 13-year old who is determined to excel at everything and I know this because I was one of them. But Gabi also cares deeply about her friends and her family and she doesn't let them forget it. I loved her friendship with Yasmany and I loved how clear it is that she cares for her family. Also, the fact that she has like fifty dads?? Absolutely iconic. I did get them a bit confused at first, but I found that I was able to adjust quickly.

Another thing that really surprised me about this book was the fact that this book made me want to go back to middle school?? And like my middle school days were Bad, but?? This book somehow made me feel nostalgic for them. Anyways, Carlos Hernandez, what magic did you use?? I wish I could have gone to Sal and Gabi's school because it just seems like such a better middle school experience than mine?? Culeco academy is a magnet arts middle school and I just think the atmosphere of it all,,, made me incredibly happy. It is also filled with adults who actually care about the kids that they have to teach. (That's how you know this is a fiction book, lmao). Specifically, I really loved the character of Principal Torres because you can really tell that she cares about her job and the kids in her care and I think that's such an important thing to see.

The world set up in this novel was absolutely fascinating! It's a light sci-fi that's set two minutes in the future, where regular people can possess technology such as self-driving cars and magical people like Sal can open holes into alternate universes. I really loved the way Sal's ability was developed and explored throughout the story and I can't wait to see where Hernandez takes it in book two!

Last thing I want to talk about is the plot! While I did find that the pacing of the plot was a bit disjointed, I found that I didn't really care for the most part. It didn't really impact my enjoyment of the book that much. That said, I did really enjoy the climax of the story and I really loved the way the main conflict was resolved?? Also that cliff-hanger at the end really left me impatient to go into the next book.

This is one that I can see myself talking about and recommending time and time again because I truly enjoyed every second of this reading experience. Cannot recommend this one enough!! Especially for those of y'all who love middle grade.
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews710 followers
April 11, 2019
Rick Riordan Presents is probably the only imprint I can say I want to read EVERY SINGLE BOOK FROM. I saw the synopsis mentioned a raw chicken inside a locker and was immediately sold. I WANTED IT and I READ IT and YEAH. I am not really sure if Sal and Gabi Break the Universe has mythology vibes??? But what I can say is that it is truly a work of art.

There is a good chance I’ve said that about another book or two before but I don’t know how else to describe how truly well written this book is. Carlos Hernandez knows how to pace a book, he knows how to pull at your emotions and he knows just how to crack and build tension. There were so many times when I’d be teary eyed and a well placed joke would have me laughing my butt off. I don’t think I’ve read a book in a long time that actually made me laugh out loud but this book? THIS TRULY WONDERFUL BOOK DID.

Sal Vidòn is an aspiring magician. He loves the thrill of pulling off complex tricks and entertaining people. He and his family recently moved to Miami and it’s his first week at the Culeco Academy of the Arts. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t off to a great start. One thing leads to another and somehow…a raw chicken finds its way into the locker of Yasmany- the kid who has been bugging Sal.

Gabi Reál is… a lot of things. She is head of student council, editor of the school paper and occasionally plays lawyer whenever her friend Yasmany gets in trouble. She knows that whatever Sal might say, that raw chicken wasn’t just a magic trick. Something fishy is going on and she is here to unearth the truth.

Of course, the truth is the furthest thing from what Gabi could have imagined and soon, Sal and Gabi find themselves investigating parallel universes and figuring out how they can minimize long-term consequences of looking into other universes.

So, here is the thing, I personally found that Sal and Gabi Break the Universe wasn’t super plot-driven which is sort of what I went in expecting?? There are things happening but I noticed that the characters themselves were at the front and center of the story rather than adventures and such.

I AM A PLOT PERSON But I wasn’t even really disappointed that there wasn’t as much of a plot because the characters themselves are so so well-written and well rounded. Sal has diabetes and lost a parent 5 years ago. He is still grieving his mother and yet he also has a positive relationship with his stepmother and his father. Gabi’s brother is in the NICU and might not survive. She is terrified for her brother but she is surrounded by her mother, many fathers and friends who lend her support when she needs it. Yasmany is not really a main character but he deals with abuse and is still able to form meaningful relationships and also find support.

These characters are all so wonderful I absolutely cannot wait to see where their adventure will take them next. I DO HOPE that now that we have an incredibly strong grasp on these characters, we get more adventures into parallel universes and explore this near-futuristic world a bit more.
Profile Image for Kacey.
1,127 reviews4 followers
May 19, 2019
The best way I can describe this book is Cuban Wrinkle in Time, except not nearly as religious. It's pretty cute but very weird and honestly hard to follow. I'm trying to imagine what a middle schooler would think reading this. They would probably be a little entertained, but also bored.

Here's the thing about this book: the universe-breaking part of the plot is never explained. Sal is narrating and he never talks about when he first discovered he could do this, and his scientist papi doesn't seem to want to know how his son got this power. Or if he does know, he doesn't discuss it with his son. All it takes for Sal to reach through the multiverse is to "relax". Like I said, very Wrinkle In Time-ish.

Sal is an interesting narrator. I do like that he's emotionally mature enough to admit his mistakes immediately and isn't embarrassed about his feelings. I also like he has a good relationship with his papi and stepmother. I don't really like how he was never punished for anything. "Detention" at his school seems like more of a reward than a punishment and his parents are push-overs. He even steals things from people and there's no punishment for it. Also, it's really weird how the principal would discuss personal things with him and he would be present when another student is punished. I went to public school so I can't say how things are done in more private school settings, but it still feels weird and a broach on privacy.

I feel like this story would've worked fine without the universe-breaking part, and the weirdness cranked down a LOT. A kid working through the loss of his mother and meeting another kid with a family member in NICU would've been fine on its own. If the universe-breaking was meant to be a part of the story, I wish it'd been a larger part. Like show some actual consequences for Sal constantly tearing holes in reality or something. Things didn't get nearly chaotic enough.

I think middle school me would've either been bored or confused by this book. I think parts of it were charming-- like when it focused on the families-- and it touched on some important things like loss and grief and abusive households a little. I liked all the insights into Cuban culture. But I think the universe-breaking should've either been left out entirely or been more prominent.
Profile Image for Cassandra.
Author 114 books1,692 followers
April 15, 2019
I will fight anyone who doesn't think this book is worthy of being praised from the rooftops, passed between friends like a rare secret, spoken of with great love in front of parents starved for new reading material to gift their children.

Because this book is good.

Because this book is subtle and sincere and smart but more than anything else, it does that thing that good media does: it cracks open the universe for its readers. Let me give you examples. This is a book about a kid who can tear open the space between worlds, reaching in to alternate timelines. This is a book with a step-mother hell-bent on ensuring that her step-son is loved and knows that he is loved and that she will never replace his biological mother. This is a book with complicated families. This is a book where the author slyly hints at things for children to become fascinated by: dance-jocks, the continents before they separated, cosplay, Terry Prachett.

This is a book that quietly teaches you how to apologize, how to stand up for yourself, and how phobias work and why they should never be used against someone.

This is a book with Good Lessons, wrapped up in writing so vivid that I startled when the narrator's voice spoke aloud in my head.

This is Doug and As Told by Ginger and Hey! Arthur visiting Charlie Jane Anders' All The Birds in the Sky.

... where was i? It doesn't matter!

The point is: this is a good book and you should devour it.
Profile Image for Meag McHugh.
618 reviews2 followers
March 2, 2019
I liked Sal and his voice in this story (learning a little bit about diabetes through him was interesting, and I found the sections where he is unpacking the grief of losing his mother to be the strongest in the book). But otherwise, this fell flat for me. For one, it really dragged. Things happen, but they’re not all that exciting. Most of the book is Sal saying smart aleck things or Gabi being a less tolerable version of Hermione from HP. But the thing that drove me the most crazy was that all of the logistics of the multiverses and rips in the universe and calimatrons and stuff felt really fuzzy. I didn’t quite understand what was going on half the time. The world-building felt really incomplete.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,519 reviews619 followers
February 15, 2019
This book just did not come together for me. From the title I imagined Sal and Gabi cavorting about the universe getting themselves into trouble and having to make things right. What I did not expect was Sal bringing back his versions of his dead mother and Gabi having numerous dads with a baby brother just one month old and in the NICU. So, although parts were entertaining I will pass on the sequel. Sorry, Rick Riordan!

Thank you to Disney and NetGalley for a digital ARC of this new middle grade novel.
Profile Image for BookishStitcher.
1,156 reviews44 followers
June 27, 2021
4.5 stars

This Rick Riordan presents book by Carlos Hernandez was an exceeding cute, fun, and heart-warming story of found families and friendship. In a Miami school for unique gifted kids the lives of several students entwine when they realize that just maybe by breaking the universe they can save what matters most to them.
Profile Image for Laura Gardner.
1,680 reviews113 followers
June 21, 2019
If I could give this (especially the audiobook) a million stars, then I would. Sooooo funny and also full of love!
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