Pen & Xander by Laekan Zea Kemp


Pen & Xander

Author: Laekan Zea Kemp

Published on: 31 October 2017

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Pages: 379

Format: Kindle Edition

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Pen Prado has a passion for cooking. Specifically, cooking her father’s food in her father’s restaurant. It’s the heart of their immigrant neighborhood, a place where everyone belongs, and second chances are always on the menu. Except for Pen. Despite the fact that there’s something almost magic about her food, her father can’t imagine anything worse than her following in his footsteps. And when Pen confesses to keeping a secret from her family, he fires her, ensuring she never will.

Xander Amaro is undocumented but that doesn’t stop Ignacio Prado from offering him a job at his restaurant. For Xander, it’s a chance to make amends and to sever his toxic relationship with the druglord, El Cantil–a man whose been like a father to him since his own disappeared. Soon after, his mother abandoned him too, leaving behind a void that not even his abuelo can fill. Until he meets Pen.

Both seeking a place where they feel like they truly belong, they end up finding each other, and in the face of tremendous fear and self-doubt, they end up finding themselves.

I would like to, firstly, give a huge thank you to the author, Laekan Zea Kemp, for giving me the opportunity to review her novel. I really enjoyed reading Pen & Xander!

I haven’t read a contemporary novel in a long time. I’m really glad I get to read Pen & Xander after my ‘contemporary break’. This novel is one of a kind and it totally got me hooked right from the start. Pen & Xander is a story about two teenagers. Of which, Pen is looking for an answer to her ‘next chapter’ in life while Xander is struggling to walk away from his past and to start anew. Somehow, the two strangers’ lives collided and both of them started depending on one another to get past the hurdles they face in their lives.

Pen & Xander is not a light-hearted, fluffy and sweet contemporary novel. It actually dwells much deeper. I’m sure that those of you who have read Pen & Xander are able to relate to either one of the characters at some point in the novel.

Xander is a really sweet character. I’m surprised how Xander is still able to stay true to his values despite being brought up by a drug lord. He even tries to correct his own wrongdoings and is extremely guilty of doing them. I’m glad that he finally managed to muster up sufficient courage to walk out of his past and into a much brighter future. Xander… might seem like a tough guy on the outside. But, he is actually just a huge softie on the inside.

Pen and Xander’s personalities are really similar. The only difference would be that Pen is more short-tempered, impulsive and hot-headed. When Pen comes to a decision or when she is upset, she gets extremely stubborn and dives head first into the decision she made without thinking about the consequences. Xander, on the other hand, is more calm and composed but, at times, he allows his past to cloud his current judgments. There are instances while I’m reading the novel where I hope Xander would be more confident of himself.

All in all, Pen & Xander is one of the most unique contemporary read I’ve ever read and it will remain in one of my top favourite contemporary novels for time to come. It ventures into the territory of self-discovery and reflection. The kind of decisions and sacrifices people have to make.

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