Gallery of Unfinished Girls
by Karcz, Lauren

Struggling with creative blocks in the wake of her abuela's coma and her unrequited feelings for her best friend, Mercedes is invited to join a mysterious artist neighbor at the latter's estate, where she taps her creativity in unprecedented ways but remains unable to reconnect with her art in the outside world. A first novel. Simultaneous eBook.

Karcz's bold debut straddles the line between magical realism and surrealism as high-school senior Mercedes Moreno comes to terms with her identity as an individual and an artist. When Mercedes' mother leaves to take care of Mercedes' terminally ill abuela, a piano mysteriously appears on her front yard, setting off a bizarre chain of events. Passionate fellow artist Lilia moves in next door and introduces Mercedes to the Red Mangrove Estate, an ephemeral building that houses artists and brings the most raw, significant paintings out of Mercedes. Expertly executed irony propels the narrative forward as Mercedes finds meaning and insight in her art at the estate but can't bring anything outside. Her best friend, Victoria, has been instrumental as Mercedes struggles to accept herself as bisexual, but Mercedes still can't bring herself to tell Victoria she's in love with her. Mercedes emerges as a fiercely independent female protagonist who normalizes insecurity and indecision at the end of high school. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Mercedes Moreno rediscovers her muse at a mysterious, invitation-only artists' sanctuary. Latina high school senior Mercedes is desperate to create a painting worthy of her junior-year award-winner, Food Poisoning #1. But Food Poisoning #2 isn't coming along, and Mercedes feels blocked artistically and personally. Recently out as bisexual, Mercedes is secretly in love with her white, dancer best friend, Victoria. Mercedes is also stuck watching over her 14-year-old sister, Angela, while their mother is in Puerto Rico taking care of comatose Abuela Dolores. A week after their mom's departure, a piano shows up on the sisters' front lawn, and Lilia Solis, a beautiful artist Mercedes thinks might be Latina as well, moves in next door. Lilia invites Mercedes to accompany her to her "studio" in the Red Mangrove Estate, a shuttered old Sarasota beach condo, where Mercedes finds she has boundless energy to paint and meets other artists, musicians, and photographers fulfilling their artistic dreams. The catch? Nothing created at the Estate can be taken out of it; time inside the Estate seems to work differently; and Mercedes begins to crave being there. Unfortunately, the execution hobbles the premise. Mercedes remains mostly unlikable despite the first-person narration, and the dialogue comes across as affected and inauthentic, as in the way Victoria constantly calls Mercedes "dearie" or how often the teens wax philosophical about art. Initially compelling, this tribute to young artists ultimately underdelivers. (Magical realism. 12-17) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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