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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
El Piñatero: The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña is a young adult adventure novel by Rey Barrera. Growing up seeing his uncle's expertise in pulling piñatas, Simon always wanted to be a professional piñata puller. Now eighteen years old, Simon offers his piñata-pulling services at children's birthday parties but makes little to no money. After a stranger named Javier Montolio introduces Simon to the underground Piñata Brava League, where pullers and hitters fight over the piñatas involving large sums of money, Simon feels he has finally found his true calling. From the very beginning, he shines among his fellow piñateros until he comes across the Dark Panda. The winner of their ultimate matchup will go to San Antonio for the State Competition. However, the Dark Panda has a history, and facing him makes Simon realize why he loved being a piñata-puller in the first place.
A coming-of-age story with plenty of heart, El Piñatero is a captivating novel about growing up. Author Rey Barrera tells an engaging tale that finds a way to tug at your heartstrings with a nice mix of humor, drama, and a slight tinge of romance. Barrera keeps the plot moving at an even pace, drawing you into the narrative with some compelling character work that makes for a rewarding reading experience. The characters have likable personalities with traits that make readers want to root for them. I especially enjoyed Simon's family dynamics and his relationships with his friends. The ending took me by surprise, but I found it very wholesome. All in all, if you love to read coming-of-age stories that leave you with a smile, El Piñatero is just the book for you.