A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The novel contains both translated and untranslated Spanish phrases. There's an explanation of how some magical equipment works, how lie detectors work, and how to blind security cameras. Sal shares meditation techniques he learned from his psychologist.
Don't let fear take over your body. Apologize when you're wrong. Sometimes you need to think before you act and other times you need to trust yourself and go with your instinct. You'll have to make the right decision for you in the moment. Trust in the people that love you and care about you. Everybody needs help, and it's OK to ask for it. Feel your feelings and be in touch with your emotions.
Positive Role Models
Sal speaks up on behalf of the boy who bullies him and intervenes when that boy is about to get expelled. He doesn't badmouth an adult when he sees the adult genuinely trying to make an effort to do better. He's quick to apologize when he does a prank that backfires or when he upsets someone. The adults in Sal and Gabi's lives are incredibly supportive and caring. They often go above and beyond to make Sal and the other teens feel cared for and loved. Sal's also there for the adults and is reassuring.
Sal's Cuban American and many of the characters are Latino. Sal's diabetic and has a strict diet and regimen to maintain his health. There's a gender-neutral bathroom. Against stereotypes, men and boys show affection, hug, and apologize.
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Violence & Scariness
A nurse compares Sal to Chacumbele, who got hacked to bits by the women he cheated on. There are many mentions of blood: Sal has to test his blood sugar, blood from a dead chicken leaks out of the locker of the boy who bullies Sal, and one of Sal's multiverse moms, in a fury, breaks a picture frame and cuts her knee, causing it to bleed. Mild play-fighting throughout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are jokes about being friends with benefits and sexual beings. People think Gabi and Sal like each other and that Gabi could be Sal's girlfriend. They also think Sal and another girl like each other. Gabi makes sure the bullying boy knows she doesn't like him. That boy has a crush on a nurse. The nurse's ringmaster outfit for the play is a black one-piece bathing suit, fishnet stockings, and super tall high heels.
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There are Cuban and Spanish insults and swears throughout: "cacaseca," "sapingo," "maldito." They call each other sandwiches as an insult. Sal says "badass" once. Though Yasmany curses a lot, his swears are described but not specifically mentioned. There's talk of butts, butt cheeks, urine, farts, wedgies and underwear. Sal calls one of the other Sals "a wussy mami's boy."
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Products & Purchases
Skittles. No Face, a character from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sal is diabetic and has a diabetes bag that includes syringes. Gabi's "addicted" to caffeine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez, is the first book in a duology, a 2020 Pura Belpré Author Award winner, and is in development for a TV show. Sal can cross into other universes and transport items like a dead chicken and his Mami Muerta from other universes into this universe. Sal and Gabi's universe-breaking adventure is filled with lots of laughs thanks to Sal's sarcasm and wit, but their journey is not without some tears. Sal, still grieving his mother's death, intentionally and unintentionally brings his Mami Muerta from other universes. Gabi's newborn brother Iggy fights for his life in the hospital, and there are moments when readers will worry whether little Iggy will make it. While many characters think Gabi and Sal would make a cute couple, neither are interested in more than friendship. After a day of not eating, Sal, who has diabetes, passes out and ends up in the hospital for an overnight stay. There's mild play-fighting and some mention of blood.
Is It Any Good?
This hilarious, universe-breaking novel has plenty of laughs and a lot of heartfelt moments. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe engages readers from start to finish, making it hard to put down. Sal's funny and witty, somehow always a step ahead of those around him. Sure, it helps that he can make rips in the universe, but he's incredibly intelligent and thoughtful. He's in no way perfect, makes bad decisions, and takes jokes a little too far, but is quick to apologize.
Gabi's no less interesting with her ever-changing hair clips, multiple Gabi-dads, and inspirational quote T-shirts. Gabi's a fiercely loyal friend to Yasmany and tries to be there for him, especially regarding the situation with his problematic mother. Gabi has other worries with her infant brother Iggy in the hospital's intensive care unit, but even those sad moments are lightened with a bit of humor. While many of the details surrounding Sal's universe-ripping powers remain a mystery, many readers won't mind and will love this science- and magic-filled story.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.