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Sal & Gabi Break the Universe is a novel written by Carlos Hernandez released on March 5, 2019. It is released in the Rick Riordan Presents.[1] imprint and focuses on Cuban folklore with Sci-Fi themes.

Synopsis

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal's office for the third time in three days, and it's still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany's locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess ... except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he's capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken--including his dead mother--and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There's only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.[2]

Development

Carlos Hernandez chose Miami, Florida as the setting as he knew the place very well due to living three hours away as a kid. He put in the multiverse concept as a way of wish fulfillment.[3] To celebrate the book coming out the next day, Rick Riordan and other authors of Rick Riordan Presents dressed up as if they were alternate universe counterparts of themselves.[4]

Plot

The Raw Chicken Incident

Sal Vidon

Sal Vidon

Sal Vidon has just begun his first year at Culeco Academy of the Arts in Miami. But three days later, while he was getting his stuff from his locker, including his diabetes bag and glucose meter, a bully named Yasmany Robles had trouble opening his own locker. When Sal tried to help, Yasmany was annoyed and confused at why someone like him would help him. He slaps Sal's diabetes bag on the floor making him upset, he picked it up only to find that he was surrounded by other kids. When Yasmany said it was time for him to die, Sal said just like the dead chicken in his locker. Sure enough, blood comes out from the locker and when Sal helps Yasmany open it up a raw chicken comes out. The kids scattered screaming, but Yasmany insists that he didn't put it in there, Sal the "magician" did it.[5]

Med Bag

Sal's med bag

The two boys get sent to Principal Torres' office, this is Sal's third day. But after he mentions his type-one diabetes, she considered telling the science teachers to teach a lesson on this as the school is relatively new. However, she expels Yasmany because he has done a lot more before his encounter with Sal, including going on probation. Suddenly, as Yasmany expected, Gabi Real, the student council president and editor of the school newspaper, comes in as his lawyer. She doesn't have anything against Sal, she convinces Principal Torres that Yasmany couldn't have put that chicken in his locker and passes the buck towards Sal who claims that it was just an illusion. Yasnmany gets detention for angrily swearing, he claims there was blood on his shoe but it's gone now. Principal Torres calls Mr. Milagros, a custodian, to ask him about the chicken but he says that it vanished by the time he got there. Principal Torres comes to the conclusion that the chicken was an illusion. Gabi states that Sal still caused a panic but he apologizes, she finds this hard to believe that this was a magic trick, but she checks her hand to see that Sal stamped his GOTCHA ring on her palm, stunning everyone. As Principal Torres is about to expel Yasmany, Sal asks her to give him another chance, she relents and has him write a five page report on type-one diabetes due at the end of the week. Sal heads to his locker to grab something to eat when Gabi chases after him to apologize. He trips on the stairs and she catches up with him. Sal is angry and says he does not want to talk to her for defending Yasmany and trying to get him in trouble. They share a small laugh when he realizes that Gabi does not speak Spanish. He leaves when he hears the bell and Gabi declares she will know more about him.

During his textile arts class, the kids in his group call him a brujo, sorcerer, believing he used black magic. During gym class he was going for the hardest of the three rock climbing walls, but is stopped by Coach Lynott who encourages him to do yoga instead. Sal manages to convince him to go on the wall and he even spots him. When he gets to the hardest part of the wall, he decides to do a trick to get to the top, but changes his mind and loses his grip and falls. The coach lowers him down and Octavio Murillo calls Sal a mago, magic user. In response, he tries to pull a bird out of midair and fails, class then let's out.

The Lie Detector

Gabi Real

Gabi Real

For interpretative theatre workshop, the teacher, Mrs. Waked, has the class put on different performances. Sal asks her to go first but she wants him to go last. Just as the bell rings, Gabi and Mr. Milagros move a hospital gurney and computer into the room. The performances are well received with a girl performing a ventriloquists act, Widelene Henrissaint performing a bo-justu demonstration, and Adam Hoag showing a clip of his documentary of him getting wedgied in different forms. The penultimate act is Gabi showing of a lie detector, when everyone volunteers she picks Sal. She hooks him up in a very flashy manner and asks him questions, when she finally gets to the chicken in Yasmany’s locker, he reveals that he can open portals in the space time continuum and did this to put the chicken in the locker. Everyone thinks this is a collaboration act and applause for them.

Before leaving he tells Gabi he wants to talk to her later, much to her joy. He makes his way to his locker but stops when he sees Yasmany, after thinking of what to do he goes over and unknowingly to Yasmany, helps him open his locker. He dances with joy and goes to detention. Sal looks into Yasmany’s locker and sees the portion to the alternate dimension chicken factory. He finds and reads a note Gabi wrote to Yasmany before Mr. Milagros makes himself known and points out a camera. He puts the note in the locker, closes it, and heads home.

Mami Muerta, the Hospital, and Partly with the Reáls

As he walks home Sal remembers the time he and his mother were in a car accident. He starts to breath heavily and runs home to eat something. When he arrives at his home, dubbed the Coral Castle, he hears a woman singing in Spanish inside. At sundown his father and step-mother return home at the same time and journey joyfully to the front door. However when they get inside, that realize that Sal’s mother is with them, cooking Cuban food.

They head to the dining room for dinner and Mami and Sal serves Gustavo and his step-mother (going by Mrs. Scott, an architect from New York City who is rented a room). Everyone is enjoying dinner and Sal put on one of his father’s records, Mami and Mrs. Vidon start to dance. Sal is enjoying the moment but faints and wakes up in the hospital.

Sal wakes up and hears his parents talking, he pretends to still be asleep. His father turns on a device to detect Calamitrons, it senses none. Gustavo tells Lucy, his wife, that he has finished the Remembrante Machine. His parents decide to take away his magic privileges for a week. He makes his parents think he just woke up and they come over to him.

Sal wake up at 10:37 PM and goes to get something to eat. He sees two nurses at the nurses station, Calambe and Ortiz, and distracts them with a siren. However a third nurse, Dulce Sotolongo, notices him and asks what he is doing before taking him to a family having a party. They great Sal and give him a plate of food before La Jefa, Gabi, sees him and asks what he’s doing. After a calming Gabi down and making food disappear, by eating it, Gabi’s family introduces themselves to him. After the introductions he tells Gabe he likes her family, and unknowingly becomes her friend. However the mood suddenly shifts when he asks about her brother. Everyone becomes silent and he follows the Gabi to another room.

They see Nurse Sotolongo, who says Iggy is asleep. Gabi makes Sal promise that he wi not make a job and they scrub their hands and out on masks to see Iggy, Gabi’s brother. Sal sees they tiny newborn in an incubator and Gabi tells him he has a weak immune system. Sal feels this is unfair for someone so young to be this sick. At Gabi’s urging, he puts his arm in a sterile sleeve and Iggy grabs his pinky.

Going Home and The Article

Yasmany

Yasmany Robles

At 5:07 AM, the doctor gives Sal the okay to go home and go to school. At home, he and his parents race to get the hot water. After bathing, they have coffee and hot chocolate. Before Sal goes upstairs, his parents ask him if he intentionally brought his mother back and he says no and tells them about a car nearly hitting him made him think of the crash. He asks if his father's machine can close rifts, Gustavo says he’s not sure. Sal goes up stairs to get dressed and loads his pockets with props before going to school.

School Paper

The school newspaper

As Sal enters school grounds, he sees everyone reading the school paper and sneaking glances at him. Gabi comes up to him and gives him the paper with her article, PULTRYGATE!, on the front page. When he finishes he scolds for defending a bully and cementing his reputation as a brujo, he goes inside to cool off but Gabi stops him. In response he forms the paper into a cone and summons flowers into it. When he asks Gabi to lean in closer, a tarantula lunges out of the bouquet and lands on her face. Gabi swats it off before realizing what it is and starts to scream and cry in fear. Sal reveals that it’s fake and she cry’s some more. They are surrounded by the other kids and Sal pleads with her for an apology. Gabi composes herself and says she will forgive him if he carries her backpack for her while she fixes herself up in the bathroom. He agrees and they leave. As Gabi fixes herself up, Yasmany comes over and talks with Sal. He says that his paper is coming along and he heard about what happened. Yasmany believes Sal likes Gabi romantically, but he denies it. Gabi comes out and asks Sal for a follow up interview, he agrees to do one at his house. Yasmany starts to playfully tease the two and Gabi jumps on his back and playfully tortures him.

A Helper’s Punishment

Scarf

A scarf that Gladis of another universe made

Later that day, Sal is in the principal's office for the fourth time that week. During his textile arts class he saw Gladis was avoiding him, Juan Carlos says she is afraid of him while a new member of the group, Aventura Rios, tells him to ignore her. Sal decides to look into the Multiverse to see an alternative version of himself (who can speak with his forehead) and Gladis, as friends, help him out by giving her a scarf with the ojo on it. They switch it with his Gladis' scarf and the shock sends her to the nurses office. Principal Torres thinks Sal did it as revenge and he says it was. She gives him two days detention and has him write Gladis an apology letter.

During his interpretive theatre class Sal fool around with a goat mask before detention. Gabi escorts him to detention, which is held in the library, and takes him to the study room. When he goes to shake the hand of Daniel Miranda Rivero, Gabi checks him for his stamp ring first and finds her palm stamped again. When he finishes the note Sal has Gabi read it. She, along with Daniel, Yasmany, and the others in detention are awstruck by the note.

Gabi Finds her Gift, Scientist Ice Cream Party, and Helping Gabi

The others help Yasmany with his paper and when they finish, Gabi drags Sal away to do their interview. They stop by his and Yasmany’s lockers and she tricks Sal into revealing that he locker into Yasmany’s locker, she forgives him. She scream and backs away from the locker and Sal relizes that she can see the rip. He plunges in and pulls out a chicken. Just then an alternate Principal Torres comes partly through the portal and demands the chicken. They give it back and she leaves, leaving the closing rip wider then before. Gabi takes out her phone to record the interview.

When walking to the Coral Castle through Little Havana, Gabi bombards Sal with questions about how his powers work. Sal tells Gabi he is not sure himself, she does not get this until he asks how she saw the rip. She asks him to open a rip. He does and she sticks her head in and is amazed. When they reach his house they see a moving van out front and unfamiliar voices inside.

He and Gabi go inside to find scientists, one of them being one of Gabi‘s dads, working on a large computer in the living room. Gustavo comes over to them and tells them that this is the machine he was working on. They were going to put it upstairs, but they could not get it to the second floor. Sal helps his father with sundaes for everyone. When they make the sundaes Gustavo tells Sal that he thinks he can fix rips that he opens, explaining that when he fainted the day before his mother vanished before he hit the ground, he thinks he can help Sal figure out how to control it. When everyone is eating sundaes, he notice that Bonita, Gabi’s dad, is not eating and she says she is a class nine artifact intelligence robot. Sal does not believe this and everyone tries to convince him to no success. Bonita then gets an urgent text and tells Gabi to go to the hospital as Iggy‘s condition just worsened. They leave soon after and the other leave too. Sal and Gustavo decide to take Lucy to her favorite restaurant- Chocolatón, a restaurant where every dish is served with chocolate. They tell her about the machine in the living room and she quickly cools down. Later that night Sal looks at the machine to find the calamatron count to be 679 and sees the silver dots forming his mother performing different actions. Lucy then comes over to him as he is about to get rid of the calamatrons and talks with him. When he is done he asks her what he could do about Iggy. Lucy thinks Gabi could be a good girlfriend for him and he shrugs it off. He texts Gabi to see if he can do anything, she says she can’t make it to school the following day and asks him to take notes for her from three different people, Gladis Machado, Teresita Tómas, and Aventura Rios, in her classes.

Sneaking into School, Day with another Gladis, and The Hospital

Sal wakes up early and takes a led light rainbow hat with him to check on the rip in Yasmany’s locker. He finds his father's Entropy-sweeper wrapped in a blanket behind the couch, replaces it with a weed wacker, and takes it with him. When he gets their he finds the door unlocked and goes inside. He distracts Mr. Milagros by having clean the unisex bathroom on the first floor. He sneaks up to Yasmany’s locker and has the sweeper scan for Calamatrons, it sense thirty-seven. When Sal questions himself on how to get rid of them, the sweeper tells him he inhaled one. Sal finds this interesting.

Gladis

Gladis Machado (of both universes)

He stashes the Entropy-sweeper in the prop room and head the courtyard. Sal sees Gladis Machado and goes over to her, he waves and after talking with her realizes that this Gladis is the Gladis who gave him the scarf. She reveals that her Sal switched her and his Gladis, when she checks in they find out that she is freaking out. She agrees to give notes if she can get her scarf back. He sees Principle dragging Yasmany to her office and follows them. He tries to act as Yasmany’s attorney and Principal Torres kicks him out. He finds Aventura and Teresita Tómas and they agree to give her notes. During gym they notice that all the walls are easy, the students are upset and Coach Lynott tries to calm them down with little success. Sal manages to make the red wall back to it’s old self and everyone is shocked and happy.

After his last class he goes to the library and gets the notes for Gabi. When Daniel sees him he asks him where Yasmany is, he does not know and Daniel gives him permission to go to Principal Torres. On the way he and Alternate Gladis drop by the prop room to scan her for calamatrons, the sweeper sences none and she explains that their are none because the trade, a Gladis for a Gladis, was equal. She calls calls the Sweeper “Rafalito” and it’s shocked that she knows its name. Later they go to the administrative office to find Mr. Zacto, he tells them Principal Torres is in the cafeteria and to call him if she needs someone to talk to. He gives them the scarf before leaving. Alternate Gladis says her Sal is going to switch them back and he heads her to the gender nuetr bathrooms to avoid the cameras. She heads in and forgets her scarf. Moments later his Gladis comes out and calls him “nice Sal” and the other one “brujo Sal”. She takes the scarf and, realizing it was a gift, puts it on and waits for her dad to puck her up, Gabi texts him to bring her the notes.

He goes to the cafeteria to talk with Principal Torres, Sal asks her about Yasmany and she said he went home. Sal informs Daniel and talks with her. They two eventually play around with Venetian bauta masks. Sal asks about Yasmany, she says she can’t inform him of other student‘s issues, but does tell him Yasmany needs all the friends he can get at the moment and asks Sal to try to be one.

Sal and Gabi are sitting in the hospital cafeteria with Sal wearing the bauta mask and Gabi tries to get him to talk, even biting his leg. He eventually talks and they decide to work on an Everyman play. Sal calls his parents to ask them about spending the night at the hospital and to bring him some props. They allow it and send some time with him and Gabi before going up and meeting her family. Gabi and Sal take Nurse Sotolongo a coffee before going to see Iggy. They talk about how unfair it is for Iggy before Sal talks about his father‘s line of work. When he’s finished Gabi realizes that he could fix the universe and they leave.

“Breaking“ into Culeco and Yasmany

Gabi manages to talk their parents into letting them go to school under the semi-lie of a science project. Gabi opens the door with her key card and they head to the prop room get the Entropy-sweeper, which surprises Gabi. They head to the lockers and Sal starts snorting the calamatrons, much to the worry of the concerned Gabi and Sweeper. The calamatron count goes from thirty-six to thirty-two before they stop him. As they head to the multipurpose room, where gym class is, they find mats arounged in a bed with a semi-deflated football with a teddy bear. Gabi starts to angrily text someone before Sal realizes it’s Yasmany.

They meet up with Yasmany on the first floor and Gabi scolds him for not going to her if he needed help. They look to Sal for help but he farts and they all laugh. He agrees to go with them to the hospital and they go to the multipurpose room to get Yasmany’s things. Sal stays behind and the sweeper gets no calamatrons on either the first or second floors. He goes to the others and as they clean up his things, Sal notices the wall switched back but he can still see both walls. Gabi sees it and Yasmany tries to sees it while Gabi fails to give him a wedgie. Yasmany picks Gabi up by a belt loop and carries her and his bag out of the room.

At the hospital Gabi‘s family treats Yasmany like he is one of their own and Sal notices Ms. Real and Cari-dad talking to two Miami-Dade police officers and Gabi mentions that Yasmany has a troubled relationship with his mother. Nurse Solongo brings the boys to a spare room for the night and, just before going to bed, Yasmany asks Sal why he does acted like he did and Sal says he is not shore. He then asks if Nurse Solongo has a boyfriend and they laugh. A few minutes later he starts to repeatedly apologize to Sal

Working on the Everyman Play

Gabi asks Sal to come to the cafeteria at 5:30 AM to work on their Everyman play and has Nurse Solomgo drag him there when he does not respond to her texts. They get to work and ask their parents for help with the costume and scrip. Gustavo, Lucy, Reina, and the dads all come in to help them with props. After texting with Aventura she offers to bring her sewing machine. As they get to work the dads thank Sal for maki them feel better and decide to make Sal a dad under the name “Presti-Dad-gitation”.

Chapters

There are 42 unnamed chapters in the book plus an epilogue.

Characters

Trivia

Mentions of Other Cultures

  • Sal describes one of his mother’s alternative selves as having "arms like a Machamp,” a four armed Pokémon from the Generation I era.
    • Later, Dr. Doctorpants dresses up as another Pokémon, Jigglypuff.
  • In an alternate universe, Doctorpants dresses up as Amethyst from Steven Universe.
  • When Gabi's fathers are eating ice cream without talking, Sal compares them to No-Face from the 2001 Japanese film, Spirited Away.
Sal & Gabi series
Books: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe | Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe
Main Characters: Sal Vidon | Gabi Real | Yasmany Robles | Gladis Machado | Floramaria Vidon | Gloria Torres | Entropy-sweeper | Ignacio Real
Minor Characters: Gustavo Vidon | Lucy Vidon | Reina Real | Gabi’s Fathers | Mr. Milagros | Dr. Doctorpants | Coach Lynott | Daniel Miranda Rivero | Juan Carlos Chaviano | Octavio Murillo | Aventura Rios
Related Content: Carlos Hernandez | Rick Riordan Presents


References