Cover Image: Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming

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Member Reviews

Extremely interesting, but the pacing was a bit rough for me. I loved the beginning, the characters, and the premise of this book. But I couldn't seem to get through the middle. I could definitely see this being one I get through if I picked it up later.

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for review.
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DNF @ 25%.  

This sounded like the kind of book I'd love: young woman re-evaluating life choices, diverse characters, politics, mother/daughter relationships...

The problem was pacing. Every move forward in the plot was followed by five pages of exposition. I found myself reaching for my phone every few pages, and with so many good books to read, I couldn't keep going.
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I actually have been reading this book for a couple of weeks now, but I still haven't decided how I feel about it fully; some parts I loved, some others I haven't deciphered yet. So I will refrain from a star rating for now. I went into it expecting more of a romance, lighthearted vibe, so I was surprised to see that the book deals with some very important, more serious topics and social issues; and it does so in a way that feels genuine and authentic, not patronizing or just an attempt to make the book more "relevant" or timely. You can tell that it was written with care and love and that extensive research had gone into it. 

I am by no means an expert on Puerto Rican politics so I have no idea how accurately the author depicted and described certain topics. I will say, however, that I really enjoyed the fact that both Olga and Prieto were not clear-cut heroes, but rather complex human beings, each with their own weaknesses and battles. That being said, I found Olga a much more compelling character, so I enjoyed her chapters more. And while the author was very successful in allowing us to draw our own conclusions on these two, instead of presenting a clear-cut, patronizing narrative that essentially does all your thinking for you, I thought their mother was - for the most part - quite heavily villainized, and not really allowed the same complexity her children were. Again, I don't know if she is based on any real-life person or sequence of events, so I am not judging the accuracy of depiction here, I just think the book would have been more compelling had she been afforded some redeeming qualities. 

That being said, I think I found the conversations this book can spark far more interesting than the book itself? I didn't particularly care about the specific story, only the implications and discussions surrounding it, and while Olga was more compelling that Prieto, she is still not a character that stood out to me. I also just really disliked the ending of the book, so I think that was massively affected my overall impression of it.

** An ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **
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This was an almost great book.  The characters were great and full of failings as well as having much good.  The dilemma of Puerto Rico citizens and their treatment as not-quite-American-although-they-are-American was full of frustration, identity confusion and the question of whether the great American dream is for everyone.  The book is also full of minorities doing well regardless of sex, colour or sexual preference.  The evil money loving corrupt white business guys were well mocked.
The two main characters were Olga Acevedo who runs a high-end wedding planning service and her brother Prieto who is a NY politician.  They both grapple with their life choices and the dilemma of their mother who is leading a secret community preparing to gain independence for Puerto Rico.  Lots of angst about what is the best way to improve the living standards of Puerto Ricans. 
The thing that let the book down for me was the sudden ending which changed the pace of the book dramatically and the various story lines which I had been following were wrapped up in a few paragraphs.
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Overall, a very interesting read. It took me a good few chapters to really get into the story and really understand what all was going on in the story. I had a hard time following the connections and plot but towards the end it was perfectly blended and truly showed the connections between siblings, friends, lovers, and ethnicities.
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I absolutely loved this book. I fell in love with the characters. Well, most of them. There were a few that I utterly despised which is actually a good thing. The character building in this story was incredible. The effects of trauma are shown throughout the characters and I really liked how it was all tied together. This is a story about a congressman and his sister, a wedding planner, and their tumultuous adult lives with an absent mother and a loving grandmother. Set in NYC, this story explores the effects that rich, white developers have made in neighborhoods, pushing many families out of their homes. There is also the devastation brought to Puerto Rico by a hurricane, leaving its residents without power, food, clean water, and more, as well as the help they tried to bring and their mother's wishes for them to not help. This story is full of political corruption and family struggles while also exploring what the American Dream really means.
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This book is a marker of the 21st Century.

It carries with it testimonies of how far we've come and the fruit of progressive reform, while reminding us of the long journey we still have in front of us. It deals with the intricacies of activism with its set of dilemmas that come with it. It reminds us that life runs on trade-offs, disguised under the illusion of choice.

This will be my favourite debut novel of 2022, I know it. I find it hard to believe Xóchitl is a debut author. She is a natural at this.

Olga had me wrapped around her finger. The way she presented herself is something I have always wanted to be. She is my dream-self, materialised in pages of a book. So I felt her anger like it was my own & I learnt many things about my own activism & how I should work to improve on it. The other characters' complexity was done impeccably well & none felt like plot devices. In fact, they felt less like characters and more like real people. This book reads like the most exciting memoir I never knew I needed.

The plot is modern and relevant. When the author dropped the plot points on me, I care so much about the characters that it was hard to not have my hand fly to my mouth. I found myself holding my breath so many times while I read, hardly believing what unfolded. <b>Nothing but a page-turner,</b> this book is.

The writing is so picturesque and engaging. Xóchitl is so fond of her culture and her people and I found that my heart reflected that same love. The way she wrote about Olga's family brought me back to my hometown's wooden house with the warmth of chaos of my Chinese immigrant family in SE Asia, a never-ending drone of the mingling dialects & laughter from my aunties & uncles. Time has taken those moments away, as everyone grew up in pursuit of a better life. far away. This book brought back that overwhelming comfort of being surrounded by family, food and culture that I very much miss. She captured it in a way I didn't think possible. 

Her writing sets its own standards. Sophisticated in the ways that matter and yet down-to-earth, genuine and unrefined in describing love, family and friendship.

The romance is absolutely fantastic, none of that puppy love you see in YA novels and yet still giving your heart a squeeze every time our protagonist and her love interest interact.

Criticism : The only minor criticism I have is that maybe the cover could use some improvement. I think the bold colours absolutely capture the spirit for the book but the design could do with some tweaking.
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I loved this debut novel. The first chapter drew me in to this wildly dysfunctional family. The main characters are Olga Acevedo (named after a radical female) and her brother Prieto. Their father dies of AIDS picked up through intravenous drug use. Their mother deserts them when Olga is thirteen and her brother seventeen. Prieto changes his plans for college to stay home and help their grandmother take care of Olga. Through the years, the two receive letters from their mother. Due to her clandestine existence in the radical underground, her children never have any real idea of where she is or what she’s doing. Though she is seen only in the epistolary segments of the book, her character comes through loud and clear: she is a radicalized Puertoriqueña fighting against “the man.” In each letter, she urges her children to become what she perceives as their true selves, trying to get them to join her in her fight for Puerto Rican independence. Her disappointment in the lives they establish for themselves is incandescent.   

This book deals with many issues facing people of color and nonbinary people, ranging from blatant racism to the more subtle, deeply engendered white privilege. It also looks at the lives of children with poor parenting and the fracture felt by people who belong to two cultures. 

I enjoyed watching Olga and Prieto come to terms with being abandoned by a mother who never should have been a mother, their development of their own lives, and how they eventually must abandon their hopes for reconciliation with their mother.
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This was good. I thought the characters were complex and well done, although the plot had a little too much going on, which sometimes kept the book from having momentum.
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Olga Dies Dreaming is a powerful and vivid exploration of identity, person, and place. Xochitl Gonzalez writes poetically in prose and with beauty and attention to dialogue and detail. A book to share widely.
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I absolutely love this book! As a puertorican it is difficult to find books that not only tells our story, but makes me feel seen and heard as a person. This book did that and more. Rich with recent historical references that I have personally lived through, this book is a must for puertoricans inside and outside the island. I can't wait to get a copy of this and display it on my shelf! 
My only feedback is that I feel like the title doesn't really fit the story. Other than that I loved it and will be recommending it over and over.
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As a bookseller I look for strong and powerfully driven characters combined with historical content, especially in Puerto Rico.  I absolutely LOVED this debut novel. I was instantly drawn from the first chapter and was rooting for Olga throughout. Xochitl's prose is unlike anyone I have ever read and I'm looking for this to this powerful debut to be out in the world. Can't wait to uplift and support this title. Olga Dies Dreaming is my personal and the bookstore's most anticipated novel for 2022. Congratulations Xochitl!
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I enjoyed the scenes but the story and themes themselves weren't particularly my style of books. The writing however did grab my attention but at times lost it due mostly to the fact that I was lacking interest in the story. This is not the author's fault because the author wrote beautifully, and as a debut, it's absolutely compelling. The characters were well built, the New York scene was very well written. I unfortunately put down this book, what caught my attention at first, by the middle, lost it.
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