It’s summer time in Miami, and 13 year old Arturo Zamora is looking forward to working at his family’s restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla. It’s a staple in the community. It’s so popular that the restaurant is planning on expanding to the empty lot next door. Things start to heat up when Wilfrido Pipo, a land developer, strolls into town with his own idea for that empty lot. He wants to build a high rise building with lots of fancy restaurants, shops, and theaters. The town is all abuzz with excitement. Lost in that excitement is that La Cocina is not part of the plan and would have to be torn down, destroying a staple of the community and a part of Arturo’s family.
Arturo sets out to save his family’s restaurant, but it’s harder than it looks. He must show the town that Wilfrido is not what’s best for their community. He teams up with Carmen, an old family friend who is visiting from Spain for the summer. Carmen is all in to take on Wilfrido, and the two come up with a plan. But working closely with Carmen stirs up some unexpected feelings in Arturo. Pair that with Abuela’s failing health, Arturo has a lot on his mind this summer.
In The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, author Pablo Cartaya creates an enticing read about the realities that many communities are facing when it comes to gentrification. The story centers on strong family dynamics, small businesses, and standing up for what’s right in your neighborhood. Cartaya has a strong middle grade voice, showing the awkward realities of middle school while demonstrating that young people have the ability to stand up for what they believe in and make a difference.