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  • Mariela Pinilla

Mariela Pinilla Reviews The Absolutely (Almost) True Adventures of Max Rodriguez

Updated: Mar 29

To the stories and dreams of all misfits, botched-jobbers, and unapologetic originals” reads the dedication at the beginning of Aldama’s novel. The Absolutely (Almost) True Adventures of Max Rodriguez is a coming-of-age novel that follows our titular character through various “adventures” that take place during their early teen years. The novel carries themes about the importance of family, having an open mind, and the oft-ignored maturity of young people. Max’s story is one for those who have struggled to fit in, whether it be because of conditions one is born with, ways they express themselves, or the interests they have.

Max’s story is one for those who have struggled to fit in, whether it be because of conditions one is born with, ways they express themselves, or the interests they have.

Max’s family is one of the shining points of this novel. It is one that would be misjudged: Max’s mother is a single, underpaid school teacher who drives a truck, is hand with a hammer, and who unabashedly reads “sexy magazines”; Max’s birth father is an activist who’s been jailed for protesting; Max's uncle is a gay man living during the AIDS crisis of the 80s; and, Max’s grandmother grows marijuana in her attic to make ends meet. Instead of focusing on how the family may be misjudged, the novel looks at them through Max’s generous and worldly eyes. And as quirky as they are, each family member serves as a positive influence on Max’s life. They allow Max to discover and learn on their own, while remaining supportive and somehow united. Although Max’s family may not be reflective of the typical “nuclear family”, their love and care for Max outweighs any need to appear perfect in the eyes of others.


This ties into another key theme of the novel echoed earlier—concerns with how others perceive you. Max is a self-proclaimed tomboy who later relates with being two-spirit, one body, two genders. While Max faces some criticism and concerns about their identity, it is not the novel’s main focus. Their family accepts them, they have two close friends, and they are able to experience life like any normal teenager would. Max can thrive and grow because they are accepted for who they are and are treated with respect by friends and family. This shows the importance of maintaining openness and respect for others who may seem different. Max may not fit in with others, but they demonstrate their ability to be a mature and understanding individual who’s willing to learn from others. Even the few times where Max is judgmental, they still exhibit compassion, showing deep empathy and consideration by putting themselves in other’s shoes.


The novel demonstrates that teenagers can be mature enough to handle tough conversations—especially when they are like Max: well-read, great communicators, and willing to explore more about the world. Max’s knowledge of literature and history, combined with their own personal experiences, allows them to have profound conversations with their family and come to their own conclusions. These conversations don’t change Max fundamentally; instead, the family stories provide Max with a deeper understanding of the world that already exists around and beyond them. Max powerfully reminds readers that when given the opportunity to learn, teens become wiser, kinder, and more understanding.

Max’s knowledge of literature and history, combined with their own personal experiences, allows them to have profound conversations with their family and come to their own conclusions.

While the novel is aimed at those who feel like outsiders, it’s a story that can be enjoyed by anyone. Musical and literary references are sprinkled throughout, serving as treats for readers who understand them rather than barriers to enjoyment. One thing to note is that Max’s story provides multiple snippets into their life rather than relying on a strong plot to drive the story. There’s no single, underlying conflict propelling readers forward to a singular epiphany. Instead, Max’s growth happens gradually and on multiple levels through various interactions with family and friends. Consequently, the novel may feel flat to readers who are expecting actions that build upon each toward a resounding climax and resolution.


The novel is exactly what the “misfits, botched-jobbers, and unapologetic originals” have been waiting for. It is a book that queer, Latinx youth need. In a time where adults are attempting to undermine teenagers’ abilities to think for themselves, self-discovery is criticized, and certain stories are being repressed, The Absolutely Almost True Adventures of Max Rodriguez proves to be a satisfying read that will deeply resonate with readers of all ages, experiences, and backgrounds.

The novel is exactly what the “misfits, botched-jobbers, and unapologetic originals” have been waiting for.



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