From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10–After Hector's impulsive older brother gets killed over a girl, the 16-year-old makes one grief-filled mistake and, in a matter of days, transforms from a quiet, studious son and brother into the target of a gang leader. A social worker takes a special interest in his case, and the teen finds himself in an institution for kids who deserve a second chance. Despite the powerful plot elements, the narrative pace slows as the story progresses, and the protagonist is not dynamic enough to hold readers' interest. Victor Martinez's Parrot in the Oven
(HarperCollins, 1996) provides a more compelling coming-of-age-in-gang-culture story, and E. R. Frank's America
(S & S, 2002) is a far more emotional kid-in-the-system tale. However, this title might be considered for collections where there is a high Latino population.–Morgan Johnson-Doyle, Sierra High School, Colorado Springs, CO
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Sixteen-year-old Hector Robles, growing up in a struggling Mexican American family in El Paso, is a good student and wants to attend college. But after his older brother dies in a gang war, it's not safe for Hector at home, and he reluctantly agrees to attend a reform school in San Antonio. The action-packed scenes are laced with obscenities, and the gang confrontations and power struggles in the prison-like school are fierce and violent. Though the message about redemption is sometimes too heavy, the diverse characters are powerfully drawn, as is the elemental immigrant family story, told in flashbacks, in which Hector remembers the struggle in El Paso and his own love, guilt, and shame. In one haunting episode, Hector wins a prize for an essay honoring his father, but he doesn't tell his family about the award; he's too ashamed of them to ask them to attend the ceremony where he reads it. Link this to Milton Meltzer's Starting from Home
(2000) and Richard Rodriguez's The Hunger of Memory
(1982). Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved