Review: American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

Reviewed by Olive

American Dreamer is the debut romance from Adrianna Herrera and follows Nesto Vasquez as he tries to transform his dream from one more struggling but up-and-coming NYC food truck into a successful business Upstate. On arrival, he meets Jude Fuller, a sexy librarian with some dreams of his own, and the proverbial spanner is thrown into the works.

I’m gonna get the not-so-good out of the way first so that I can gush unrestrained about this. There are some editing issues, especially around how the timeline is managed, and the dual-first-person POV is a bit jarring initially as though the author is working a little too hard to differentiate them and not just letting their personalities shine though. That’s really it though.

This book is delicious, and not just because the food Nesto dreams up had me salivating. Food is more than just sustenance for survival and I loved the way the author wove it into all of the important moments in the book. While it would be easy to write this focus off on the plot line of Nesto trying to get a food-centered business off the ground, that would be foolish and short-sighted. Nesto’s whole origin story makes it clear why food is so important to him, sure, but food is an important aspect of safety and security for all humans and the author does a beautiful job of ensuring this comes through in ways that have nothing to do with Nesto’s big plans.

I’m a little bit in awe of Herrera here, tbh. Carmen helps Jude woo Nesto by sending him leftovers. We know Jude is opening up to share his closely guarded history when he asks Nesto to make him a specific meal. The villain is identifiable right off the bat because of the food terrorism she enacts on Jude’s lunches. She sabotages Nesto but (initially) that’s less about him and more about how she wants her son’s business to thrive. How do we know this would be bad (apart from her all-around petty assholery)? We know the son is lazy and – more importantly – he serves bad food. When she threatens to cut Jude’s budget, it’s the food and drinks piece she goes after.

For all that I could go on and on about Herrera’s cleverness in her use of food, I don’t want to downplay the villain’s racially-driven attacks against Nesto and his business. This book is nothing if not intersectional. Nesto is proudly from the Dominican Republic. His history, and those of his besties who are all Caribbean, flavors everything about how he interacts with the world. From way he handles the villain, to the business-side of the truck, to the delightful sprinkling of Spanish throughout – we never lose sight of who he is and where he’s from.

This is also an out-and-proud queer book. Nesto loses no time in making it clear to a potential investor that he’s gay and unwilling to hide it. Jude may have come as quietly out of the closet as he could manage but he did it firmly and we get to see a lot of his strength and grace as he holds to his truth and belief in himself. The sex is hot and the way they interact with each other – going all blushy/awkward/handsy whenever they’re around each other – isn’t just adorable, it drives the plot. It pushes off the conversations they need to have, since sex is easier and more fun, and that pushes them to a place where they’re forced to use their words. Spoiler alert: they’re good words 😉

I realize I’m not talking much about Jude and I want to clarify that Jude is every bit as deserving of a glowing write-up. His big dream is to create a mobile library to improve access to reading and library services in underserved communities. Can I just say how much I love that both of their dreams involve actively bringing the thing they love to the people that need it? So so much love. We get to know Jude in large part through the ways he prepares to present this idea.

Jude was a challenging character for me to read as so many of his feels resonate deeply with me. His anxiety, his fear of letting people in, his need for touch hidden behind a standoffish demeanor are all skillfully portrayed. I got angry on his behalf a lot at the beginning as the people in his life seemed to ride roughshod over his boundaries. Full disclosure – I almost didn’t want him end up with Nesto because my heart broke right along side his and retreat definitely felt safer.

I was a little afraid the resolution would be some grand gesture to makeup for lots of little neglects and I should’ve given Herrera more credit. Nesto does a grand gesture, sure, but he does so much more too. I’m so glad these two got their shit together!

CW: racism, homophobia

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

American Dreamer
by Adriana Herrera
Release Date: March 4, 2019
Publisher: Carina Press

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