It isn’t often that I pry myself away from a book in an attempt to get some sleep already, and yet fail to fall asleep because I keep thinking PLEASE MAKE THIS BOOK A BESTSELLER, GOD, PLEASEEEEE. In fact, this is the first such case. Yes, I have stayed awake because of books before. But I’m not sure I have ever stayed up because I was begging a higher power to make a book a bestseller. Especially with how much I dislike that particular term.*
* I mean, have you noticed that 90% of the authors who follow you on Twitter have “best-selling author” on their bios? And that half the blurbs also claim a book is best-selling..? I mean, yo, we must be living in a damn great selling book world. Somebody just forgot to send me the memo about when we made the transition to that reality.
Anyway, this is one of those books I’d love see as a best-seller. Translated into hundreds of languages. I hope that’s the in the future for Have You Seen Luis Velez, because it absolutely, 100% deserves that. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read in the past five years. And here’s why.
But before we even begin, there’s an important thing I have to mention: this book has brilliant ace-spec rep (aro-ace, in this case.) This is rare so I’m just putting it at the very start.
One day, when rushing off to school, Raymond meets a really old lady on the stairway of the apartment building who asks whether he’s seen Luis Velez. She is someone most people would walk away from – really old, blind and frail, and because of being blind and looking somewhere far off, at first glance she seems… not all there. But Raymond doesn’t walk away. He comes back and helps. And he’s about to embark on a journey of learning about the world as much as learning about himself. It won’t be easy, but such things never are. Even though Raymond has always been a good, kind kid, he will learn about what it truly feels to be human, and how much it matters to everyone when you’re being the most human that you could ever be. That includes being kind to others, but in the case of Raymond, it also includes being kind to yourself.
It’s About Community, Kindness And Being Human
Have You Seen Luis Velez is a book about so many things! But mostly, it’s about community, kindness and understanding how much we all need each other and how we fail to act on these needs in society, how we fail to be there for others. Among other things, it’s also a coming of age story and I believe it has some things to teach everyone. I’m not sure about its age group, as it is about a 17 year old, but if it could be characterized as YA, it’s certainly one of those that a reader of pretty much any age can enjoy and benefit from. And most of all, it’s a book that’s both sweet and heartbreaking. I cried at the end of Have You Seen Luis Velez, and I almost cried on many other occasions – and I’m not much of a crier. This book has something special, something real, and it just tugs at your heart. But it certainly isn’t just sad. It’s heartwarming, sweet and human in a way where it gives you hope about the world. You’ll actually want to wake up and be alive – alive all the way – after you’ve finished it.Have You Seen Luis Velez by @cryanhyde has something special, something real, and it just tugs at your heart. It's heartwarming, sweet and human in a way where it gives you hope about the world: Click To Tweet
It Discusses Relevant Problems Of Our Time
Have You Seen Luis Velez is a discussion of a lot of societal problems. One of them is how easy it is for one small person to get lost in the cracks of society and how nobody will notice it. How fast we judge about someone and how slowly we remember that we all have basic needs that have to be met. Nobody likes to think about the people who may need help – people who don’t have anyone and are old, disabled or otherwise rendered helpless at taking care of themselves alone, not to mention the problem of loneliness. Have You Seen Luis Velez seeks to draw attention to this problem and tries to inspire us to not walk away, to at least consider helping, being a part of the structures of community that have all but disappeared in our fast age.
A pencil and marker drawing of two hands reaching out to each other
The Amazing Characters And Ace Rep
I also want to talk more about the main character Raymond. Raymond is a very kind young man, kinder than most you’ve met, and what sets him apart (and really alienates one from most other young people) is that he cares, he really cares. There are no barriers for friendship for Raymond, so to him it’s perfectly understandable to consider a 92 year old woman a friend. She’s another core character and she is amazing, but I won’t be discussing her in much detail cause I’ll write a whole book of a review if I do. Raymond is shy, kind and different from most, but a wonderful human being. Yet there is a thing that he hides, and it’s something that was really important to me to find in this story, as it’s not found in almost any book these days. Raymond is asexual (to be precise, he is aroace) And he is depicted as kind, loving, sensitive and… realistic. I can’t tell you how rare these things STILL are in books. I was overjoyed to find such amazing rep. More than that, problems of being different are discussed a lot. When Raymond talks with Mrs. G, his 92 year old friend, she tells him that it’s perfectly fine to be who he is, and more than that, that he doesn’t need to be alone if he doesn’t want it. She talks about the fact that families can be anything – it’s also a family if you’re someone’s loving uncle, and that families without sex or children are also valid and they exist. And it’s all talked through in such a nice, compassionate manner – this was the first such book I have ever read. And I absolutely loved it for it.Have You Seen Luis Velez by @cryanhyde has amazing #aroace rep – the main character is depicted as kind, loving, sensitive and... realistic. I can't tell you how rare these things STILL are in books. GO READ IT: Click To Tweet
I said I wouldn’t talk much about Mrs. G, Raymond’s 92 year old friend, but I have to mention at least a couple things. She plays so many important roles in the story, and symbolizes so many things. Of course, she is what essentially moves the story onward, because the first theme is about how she is old, alone, blind and needs help. But it’s so much more than that. As we get to know her, we learn that she is an incredible human being with not even an ounce of prejudice in her, and what’s more, she’s basically Yoda-wise. And despite all this, she comes across as a realistic character too. The first takeaway from this is that we shouldn’t judge a person by their age and looks. But more importantly, she becomes a sort of parable in the story (which is actually even voiced a couple of times) – that despite being physically blind, she is the only one who can truly see – see people for who they are, the world for what it is, and see behind so many things and why they are. It’s an incredible contrast between her, a blind old lady and the choices the able-bodied around her make every day. It’s a wonderful symbol in the story.
Overall, l’d say Have You Seen Luis Velez is one of the most important books that I’ve read this year, if not in the past 10 years or so. Catherine Ryan Hyde is now on my auto-buy list, so please recommend other titles from her if you’ve read any! Have You Seen Luis Velez is a book that will speak to everyone about something different, because it’s got so many relevant, important topics in it. And most importantly, I know I’ll never forget it, and I feel like you won’t either. Just grab some tissues when you start reading it.Have You Seen Luis Velez is a book that will speak to everyone about something different, because it's got so many relevant, important topics in it. ★★★★★ 5 stars Click To Tweet
Triggers include: prejudice against minorities, disabled, old, poor people. Gun violence. Threatening environments, talk of hurting animals (never comes to it thank god). Family disagreements, divorced family. Trial proceedings.
I thank the publisher for providing a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
Have you read a lot of good books with strong diversity, a focus on kindness and great ace rep recently? Or, really, ever?
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.