The Other Half of Happy

No one told me twelve is earthquake season.”

Quijana is a half-Latina, half-Anglo seventh grader who does not speak Spanish, does not like Don Quixote, and is definitely not going to Guatemala for winter break! But is she happy being half?


JuniorLibraryGuild Selection, SpiritOfTexas List, TxInstituteOfLetters Best Middle Grade Book, Américas Award Honor Book, ALA Notable Book, Int’l Latino Book Awards Finalist, Pura Belpré Honor Book

Booklist, starred review School Library Journal, starred review

Pura Belpré Honor Medal (ALA, REFORMA)
Best Middle Grade Book of 2019 (Tx Institute of Letters)
Américas Award Silver Medalist (CLASP)
International Latino Book Award Silver Medalist
ALSC Notable Book
Spirit of Texas Recommended Reading List (TLA’s Young Adult Roundtable)
Junior Library Guild Gold Selection
2019 Booklist’s “Top Ten First Novels of 2019”
2019 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Commission: listed as Recommended
2020 Capitol Choices List of Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
2020 Rhode Island Latino Books Month Award Nominee
2020 Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year List
2020 Writer’s League of Texas MG/YA Book Award Finalist
2021 Battle of the Books selection, Virginia Beach Public Library
2021 International Latino Book Awards, Silver Medal for Mariposa First Book Award
2022-2023 Land of Enchantment Book Award List (Lizard age group), New Mexico

Rebecca reads Chapter 1 aloud (6:11)
This is the hand rhyme that Miracle and Crista teach Quijana in The Other Half of Happy. 🙂

For teachers!

TeachingBooks Resources (audios and more) : In “Meet the Author,” Rebecca talks about what inspired the book as well as how the novel started out as poems!




  • School Library Journal starred review “This is a title that will remain relevant long past its publication date. A must-have for all library collections.”
  • Booklist Starred review: “With poetic, flowing prose that sometimes feels more like a song and characters so convincing that they seem real, Balcárcel’s stunning debut depicts the struggles of being raised with two cultures and the challenges of not being “authentic” enough—in this case, “not Guatemalan enough” or “not American enough.” A lovely, moving, and realistic view of the struggles and insecurities—as well as the beauty—that comes from being bicultural.” — Selenia Paz
  • Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf — “Balcárcel is exceptional. An excellent Middle Grade selection, and a strong recommendation for Young Adults and Adults as well.”
  • Latinas Leyendo — “one of the best and most compassionate depictions of autism I have ever read in fiction.”
  • Gabi’s Books Reviews: “This was the first time I really got to see myself on the page.”
  • Metamorphoreader: “It’s amazing reading a book where the family isn’t broken or what triggers the plot. . . . The writing was easy to read, it flowed like water and that made me devour the book in just a couple days . . .”
  • Latinx in Kid Lit review : “Balcárcel combines the personal with the universal into a story that is likely to be felt deeply by preteens far beyond the Latinx community.”
  • The Children’s Book Review: “its language is pure poetry. It’s so riveting it will speak to anyone who has ever made the mistake in believing that they didn’t belong somewhere.”
  • That’s What She’s Reading Review:
    “Quijana’s voice hooked me from the opening, establishing herself as a strong, relatable, and authentic protagonist. This is an absolutely stunning debut that begs to be read aloud and shared widely!”
  • Hall Ways Blog review: “It’s lyrical, it’s deep, it’s highly relevant, and most of all, it’s REAL. The characters all pop to life.”
  • MissusGonzo blog review: “a compelling story that teaches great life lessons.”
  • Book Fidelity blog review: “emotional and endearing, and readers of all cultures should take the time to read Quijana’s story.”
  • Reading by Moonlight book review: “an expressive and melodic story that is recognizable and heartbreaking, humbling and triumphant, and explosive and tender. “
  • Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California, written by Louise Yu: “Rich and original prose . . . this engrossing book will delight readers.”
  • WriteBetween, Bi-cultural website by Gabriella Aldeman: “Balcárcel’s Quijana and her parents are so well-developed that their internal struggles will resonate and stay with you.”
  • Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup book review: “a fantastic story about growing up, accepting parts of your roots, and coming to terms with cultural differences.”