The morning before her flight to New York, Julia calls Freddy and Alicia to tell them she’s headed to NYU. They tell her they’re proud of her, and ask her to visit them over winter break. Lorena comes into the room as Julia is ending the call and sits on the edge of Julia’s bed, offering to help her pack. Lorena has been accepted to nursing school and is waitressing part-time; she and Juanga are hoping to get an apartment together soon, once they’ve saved enough for a deposit. Julia tells Lorena how proud she is of her and how much she loves her, and promises to call “ten times a day.” Lorena begins to cry—something she hardly ever does in front of Julia—and then heads off to work, telling Julia she loves her.
As Julia quickly ties up her loose ends in Chicago, there’s a bittersweet energy in the air. She’s excited for what’s to come and proud of what she’s achieved. But she also knows that in getting what she’s always wanted, she’s leaving behind some wonderful parts of her life in Chicago that she’d overlooked for years. This final meeting with Lorena in the book also attests to the enduring love and friendship between the two. Where there is uncertainty about Julia’s future with Connor, there doesn’t seem to be any about her relationship with Lorena.
The next day, as he prepares to take her to the airport, Apá dresses in the same faded blue shirt he was wearing the night he found Julia slitting her wrists. At the sight of the shirt, Julia feels a shameful pang, and wishes that she and her father could both un-live that night. Julia flashes back to a memory of hearing Apá pounding on her locked bedroom door as she took a knife to her wrists—she loved her father more “in that moment” than she ever had.
Julia finds herself triggered and plunged back into memory by the sight of Apá’s shirt. As she relives the night of her suicide attempt, she feels grateful beyond measure that Apá was willing to do whatever it took to save her from herself. He is as stolid and uncommunicative as ever, and yet behind that she can sense his profound love for her, and returns it.
At the airport, Julia bids her parents goodbye as she prepares to enter the security line. She can’t believe she’s leaving them, and feels terrible for going away to school. Amá hands her some money, telling her it’s in case she starts to “crave something when [she gets] to New York.” Julia begins weeping, and then opens her backpack. She hands Apá the drawing of Amá, and asks him if he’ll draw a picture of her sometime. He nods solemnly.
Julia has longed to leave home for so long, partially because she felt her parents never understood or supported her. Now, though, Amá makes it clear that she loves, knows, and supports Julia—even her bad habits—and Apá is promising to be more present and revisit the truth of who he once was. Julia feels sad as she leaves her parents, who have made just as much of an effort to change as she has.
Julia falls asleep on the plane and wakes up to see the New York skyline just outside her window. She can’t believe how big the city is. As she looks down at the buildings, she wonders what her life there will be like. Though she doesn’t know what the future holds—who she’ll be, whether she’ll continue seeing Connor—she’s excited for what’s to come. She finds herself thinking of Mexico, and of Esteban, and of all the unknowns in her future. Still, she’s proud of how far she’s come—and refuses to let herself get dragged down by the fear that her brain might “fail” her again.
Julia is nervous as she embarks on this new chapter in her life—but refuses to let fear, confusion, or uncertainty hold her back. She can tolerate that uncertainty, now, as a condition of life. She’s learning more about who she is and what she wants every day, and developing a more holistic view of herself as a complex, full person. She is not interested in either being or rebelling against being a “perfect” person.
Julia still has nightmares about Olga, and isn’t sure if they’ll ever stop—or if she’ll ever stop feeling badly about carrying Olga’s secret. She feels grateful and blessed to be able to make choices that her parents—and even her sister—were not able to make for themselves, and in fact wrote her college essay (at Mr. Ingman’s suggestion) about how her drive to succeed in life was connected to her responsibility to making her family proud. As the plane begins its descent, Julia pulls out Olga’s ultrasound picture and stares at it. She reflects on how, in the years she’s spent combing through her sister’s life to understand her better, she actually ended up finding “beautiful and ugly” pieces of herself instead.
In the novel’s final lines, Julia is able to articulate what the last two years have taught her. The whole time she was trying to uncover information about Olga, she didn’t realize that she was actually getting closer and closer to uncovering, facing, and understanding the hardest and most painful truths not about her sister, but about herself. Even in the ugliness and uncertainty Julia has been able to find beauty and solidity, and feels empowered as she enters this next phase of her life.