Julia still isn’t sure how to talk to Apá—there’s so much she wants to say to him, but can’t. The secrets she’s keeping are beginning to “feel like strangling vines.” Julia constantly questions whether keeping Olga’s secrets is selfish, or whether the more selfish thing would be to share them with her parents, who have already suffered enough. Still, Julia decides that she needs to try to keep her relationship with her father alive. One morning, she sits down with him for some coffee and asks him about his art—she wants to know why he stopped. Apá reveals that he saw drawing as a “waste of time” once he got to the States—sometimes, he says, “you don’t get to do what you want to do.” Apá puts his coffee cup in the sink and leaves the kitchen.
Even after Angie’s lesson, Julia is still struggling with how secret-keeping relates to morality. She knows that to burden Amá and Apá with Olga’s secret would be selfish; but at the same time, she is not sure how much more loneliness she can take. She tries to connect with Apá in another way, but fails—the narrative suggests that while secrets and lies may chip away at a relationship, to reveal secrets might be to blast that relationship away altogether. It's also not clear what the book thinks of Apá’s stance toward drawing. It makes sense why he gave it up in a practical way, but was it actually a waste of time? But the point that “sometimes you don’t get to do what you want to do” does connect to the way the book treats the realities of life—as always complicated, always messy, and never perfect.
Since returning from Mexico, Julia has been having weekly sessions with Dr. Cooke. Their “number-one topic” is Julia’s relationship with Amá. Julia is grateful that Dr. Cooke never seems to judge her, even when she admits things that are painful or embarrassing. When Dr. Cooke asks how things are going one afternoon, Julia reveals that she believes her mother is trying to let her have more freedom—even as she grows more and more anxious the closer Julia’s departure for college gets. Dr. Cooke asks if Julia would ever consider talking to her mother about the border crossing, and suggests that discussing it would be a way for them to go closer—maybe not now, but in the future. Julia says she doesn’t want to bring it up now, but is open to the fact that one day she might be ready to discuss it.
Julia’s relationship to secret-keeping is complicated by another facet, too, which is that revealing that she knows a painful secret might do to her relationship with Amá. There’s the chance that Amá is burdened by keeping the truth from Julia, and Julia revealing she knows it already might make things better—but Julia is too afraid to do more damage to her fledging relationship with Amá to reveal anything just yet. For now, Julia is leaving her options open—leaving a possibility for the future—which is a step in and of itself, and leaves space for a relationship to blossom in the meantime.
Julia’s college acceptance letters begin to arrive. In one afternoon, she gets rejected from Boston University, Barnard College, Columbia University, and Boston College, and begins to lose hope that she’ll be able to go away to school after all. Juanga and Lorena urge her not to get discouraged—and remind her that if all else fails, she can move downtown with them—but Julia remains determined to get to New York. The next day, two huge envelopes arrive in the mail—one is from DePaul University in Chicago, and one is from NYU. Julia has gotten into both places with full rides. Amá and Apá congratulate her, and though they’re disheartened that she wants to choose NYU over the closer university, they are genuinely proud of her and promise to support her journey to New York.
Julia is feeling a rollercoaster of emotions as her college rejections—and acceptances—begin to stream in. The letters represent her life’s work, and determine whether she’ll be one step closer to her dream of making it as a New York writer, or one step farther away. Julia’s hard work is rewarded in the end, and she decides to pursue her dream without looking back—even though she knows that in leaving home, she’ll truly never be the “perfect Mexican daughter” her parents have always wanted her to be. Having engaged with if not solved her issues at home, Julia’s now prepared to fulfill her ambition and move on to the next stage of her life.
The end of the school year approaches, and Julia is growing more and more restless about her impending move to New York. One sunny May afternoon, she attends an outdoor fair with Connor. As they share food and listen to music, she asks him what is going to happen to the two of them after the summer is over. Connor promises he’ll visit her in New York, but Julia doesn’t quite believe him. She starts to cry, overwhelmed by how quickly her life is changing. Connor tells her she looks beautiful and kisses her cheek. Julia smiles, believing him for the first time.
Julia has felt insecure in her relationship with Connor since the start—she’s been afraid he’ll be repulsed by or disdainful of her appearance, her heritage, or her attitude. Those feelings are evident here when she doesn’t entirely believe his promise to visit. Her disbelief might also stem from the knowledge she’s gained that the future is uncertain. At the same time, as Julia has dealt with some serious issues over the last several months, however, she’s grown to understand and like herself more. And she’s also learned that there is a value to live in the present, and to connect to people in that present. And so, when Connor kisses her and says she’s beautiful, she is able to believe that even as their future remains uncertain.