book review: don’t date rosa santos, by nina moreno

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?


  1. The cultural aspect. Our protagonist Rosa is a Cuban-American girl, living in a Latinx community in Miami, Florida. There were so many references that I could relate, being Latina myself. The food was probably the main one, and there was *a lot* of food in this book and I was legit mouth-watering, especially with the amount of dulce de leche – my favorite thing ever. I also enjoyed following the side characters as they compare their experiences. Having watched the show On My Block just a few days before picking this book up, I could definitely point some similarities in the hilarious way Latinx kids understand each other.
  2. Complicated family relationships. There’s no other word for the family relationships in this but complicated. Rosa was pretty much raised by her abuela, as her mom never stays in one place for long. Rosa also doesn’t know anything about the men in her life – her abuelo and her father -, and she misses that part of her identity a lot. On top of that, she doesn’t know a ton about Cuba either, and you can definitely see she resents her mom and abuela for that. However, she still has so much love and respect for these women and wants to please them as much as she wants to be her own person. It was really realistic, and also really beautiful. With family relationships being my #1 favorite aspect of a book, I had a field day with this one.
  3. Rosa as a layered female protagonist. I am a sucker for male characters, but sometimes I can get really attached to female ones, especially if they’re three dimensional as one should always be. Rosa was sweet, but also knew how to stand up for herself; she was grounded, but could also be found daydreaming a lot; she planned the heck out of everything with her fancy stationery, but also grows to learn how to go with the flow. Having her as our protagonist was a beautiful ride.
  4. The magical realism. From the synopsis, I think it’s already pretty clear this book will deal with magical realism, as our main character believes to be cursed. However, I didn’t expect it to go any further than that and was pleasantly surprised by the fact it did! Especially towards the end, some things happen that just can not be explained, but that’s okay, because what really matters is not *how* they happened, but *why*, and how has that changed these characters in significant ways. If you’re not a fan of magical realism, though, you may be annoyed at this one.


  1. Alex. Honestly, Alex was just such a boring character, especially compared to Rosa. I mean, I should’ve expected considering his name was Alex, the most basic name in the world. I don’t know why people didn’t call him Alejandro. At least that had some personality to it. Except for having a boat, a large family and a beard, there was nothing else about Alex that was memorable. He had that cold and detached personality at first, but that didn’t even develop into something more appealing, and it was not the love interest I anticipated at all.
  2. The romance. Having disliked Alex, I think it was already to be expected that I would also really dislike the romance. But the main problem for me is that it felt really insta-love-y. I do appreciate the fact the characters never use the l-word to each other at least, but still, I just thought it moved too fast and in really unrealistic ways. I’d have appreciated more angst, as I felt especially like the plot allowed that, with the whole curse storyline and all.
  3. I wish it had gone deeper in some aspects. This is definitely not the book’s fault, as I feel like it was sold to be a diverse summer YA contemporary and it definitely delivered, but I kind of wanted a little bit more. Rosa feels like she’s missing a part of her identity and even though that is an important theme in the story, I’d have liked it to discuss it even further, perhaps comparing her experience to her friends that know where both of their parents come from. I also would’ve liked to see different perspectives of fellow Cuban-Americans on their country and the change in its relations with the US.

Overall, this was still really fun & summer-y. I know depending where you live, the weather will only get colder from now on, but hopefully this book will bring some sun to your gloomy days. If you live this side of the hemisphere, don’t miss on the chance to read this one, because it will truly transport you to sunny days in Miami.

I did wish the romance was a bit more swoon-worthy, which is why my true rating would be more like a 3.5, but it’s still a contemporary I’d recommend, especially for fellow Latinxs!


If you’ve read Don’t Date Rosa Santos: what are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite thing about this book? And any other Latinx recommendations? Let me know!

14 comentários sobre “book review: don’t date rosa santos, by nina moreno

  1. Yay I love the cover for this book as it is so bright!! I’m glad you enjoyed this book and that it was able to focus on her culture as I love experiencing different cultures in books and obviously it is great to see diversity in books so I would love to pick this one up. Again I love the focus on family especially when it is complicated as it gets a realistic view of family. I’m happy to hear this book did it well.
    I didn’t know this book had magical realism in it but that sounds cool 😍
    It is a shame the love interest and romance didn’t work for you. Insta-love isn’t one of my favourites either but I think I still want to check this out for the family and culture.
    This was a great review and I loved reading it 😊

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • The cover is amazing! I was really glad to hear this book has been translated to Portuguese but they’ve kept the original cover, because I love it!
      The magical realism was a surprising aspect for me too. I think it was lovely, though, and something I wish it was more explicit on the blurb, because I think a lot of fans of magical realism would enjoy this.
      Thank you so much for reading, Sophie! 💞

      Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • I think I’ve heard about this one before and the cover was really beautiful so it caught my attention, but I didn’t hear anyone else talking about it after that. However, I’ll make sure to check it out now that you mentioned it.
      Thank you for stopping by! ✨


  2. Wonderful review! I have been really excited to get to this book! I was planning on doing so before the Summer ended but obviously, I didn’t manage to do that. Hopefully, soon <3

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

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