Book Reviews

Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is one of those books that are written so beautifully, you become inspired. But it’s not only gorgeous, it’s also a story of family, of our destiny, and how we create our own path.


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?


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is whimsical. It’s tender, empathetic, and heart wrenching. Tears were shed in the process of reading the book. I cried because of Rosa’s feelings that she wasn’t Latina enough, of her complicated relationship with her mother, and of Rosa’s journey to charting her own course. It’s a story of discovery, of grief, and secrets. It’s one of those books that rises like a wave, building with momentum, lulling you into its waves, until it crashes over your head and your heart.

Rosa & Diaspora

One of the main themes within Don’t Date Rosa Santos is Rosa’s relationship to her Cuban roots. Part of what motivates Rosa is a feeling of not being enough and wanting desperately to connect to the country that has its roots in her family and its claws in their past. There’s so much history behind her grandmother’s journey to the US and the ways it has tricked down into her family, their secrets, and their unresolved issues.

While I can’t entirely relate to Rosa’s experience, her feeling of not being enough left a tender and deep ache in my heart. Being adopted I never felt Chinese enough. It always felt like something I was pretending, something that was blatantly apparent by my face, but something I couldn’t connect to – a reflection of unanswered questions.


At the same time, Rosa’s family is such a big part of this book and a huge part of why I adored Don’t Date Rosa Santos. There’s all these unresolved issues – of a mother who can’t seem to stay, a grandmother who never reveals her past – and Rosa stuck in between. And what I loved was that while her mother and grandmother are important pieces of Rosa’s stories, they have their own directions, their own personalities and quirks.

Rosa’s relationships with her mother and grandmother not only serve as a pivotal point in the story, but also tell us about Rosa. About her kind and caring heart, about her determination and needs for plans, and about her curiosity about her family’s past. She also reminds me of myself – carrying around folders, highly ambitious, and sometimes getting caught up in the pursuit that she forgets to enjoy the moment. Rosa is so full of yearning, longing, unanswered questions, and a need to fix it all.


Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a book that you cannot miss. Whether you want gorgeous writing, characters that will make you cry, or a story that will pull you under, it is a book that will enchant you and bring you a piece of home. This book is lyrical, pulling you like the tide, emotions crashing upon the shores, and sunsets touching warm sand. Not to mention the romance aspect of the story will leave you cheering from the rooftops! It’s a book of cycled words, of feelings unspoken, of truths to rise to the surface.

Find Don’t Date Rosa Santos on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite YA where family is super important? I really loved the family in Serious Moonlight !

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