Raul loves the guitar and volunteers as a music therapist with his uncle, a pastor, although he holds secret doubts about his family’s faith. It’s while volunteering that Raul meets Danna, who loves lists, poetry and food. In fact, Danna loves food so much that she believes that it can help restore her beloved grandfather, whose memories are beginning to fade from dementia. Together, Raul and Danna go on a journey to find the perfect dishes to heal her grandfather. Along the way, they help each other heal too.
Pura Belpré Honor author Laekan Zea Kemp’s third YA novel, An Appetite for Miracles, is her first written entirely in verse. As she writes from Raul’s and Danna’s perspectives, Kemp develops distinct, realistic voices for each teen. Danna’s pages are expressive and lilting, while Raul’s are cutting and raw. Kemp also incorporates lists, text messages and other ephemera into the novel, and this blend of forms makes it feel like you’re really witnessing two people as they fall in love for the first time.
An Appetite for Miracles explores weighty subjects without dwelling in darkness; instead, it turns toward the light of hope at every opportunity. Danna struggles with loss and self-image, and Raul wrestles with faith and his relationship with a close family member who is incarcerated, but when the two teens meet, their connection sparkles with vulnerability and affection. Kemp perfectly captures the feelings of excitement and relief that come from realizing you’ve finally found someone who truly understands you.
The novel is interested in more than romance, however. Kemp surrounds Raul and Danna with complex, compelling family and friends who bring multiple perspectives on food, faith, healing and love—perspectives that conflict and evolve over the course of the book. As Raul and Danna’s relationship grows, it gives them the strength and insight to make vulnerable, daring and transformative choices that ultimately lead to a well-earned and satisfying ending.
Honesty and hopefulness can often seem like fundamentally opposed concepts. With An Appetite for Miracles, Kemp has created a novel replete with both.