Chapter 1 focuses on Oscar's early years. When he was seven, Oscar was adorable and charming, and he had two girlfriends at once. He is eventually forced to choose between them, and he chooses the beautiful Maritza over the homely Olga. It isn't long before Maritza leaves him for another third-grade boy, and Oscar feels that this is the moment when his life shifted and nothing ever really worked out for him again:
It seemed to Oscar that from the moment Maritza dumped him—Shazam!—his life started going down the tubes.
Over the next few years, Oscar gained weight that he was never really able to lose, and he struggled to make friends. His interests, including sci-fi and fantasy, were considered odd and only added to his unpopularity. Eventually, he meets Ana during an SAP class, but she is still emotionally connected to a much older and abusive man. His graduation from high school is rather noneventful, and the beginning of college doesn't show much promise, either.
Chapter 2 focuses on Lola, who is Oscar's sister. She has had a difficult relationship with her mother, who has been battling cancer. Her mother is controlling, and when Lola tries to assert her own independence, they end up in a heated argument. Eventually, Lola runs away from home to live with a boyfriend, Aldo. This arrangement isn't ideal, either, and Lola hates both her new home and the job she is forced to get.
When Aldo begins making racist comments, Lola finally calls Oscar and arranges to meet him. Oscar surprises Lola by bringing their mother with him, and Lola is then sent to Santo Domingo for a year. Living there with her great-aunt is much more peaceful than living with her mother, and Lola considers living in the Dominican Republic even longer. Lola has an odd feeling that she can't seem to shake and grows to appreciate the warmth of her great-aunt even more as she connects with her family's history. Therefore, being forced to live with her great-aunt in the Dominican Republic is an event that brings much-needed peace to Lola's tumultuous existence.