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Behind the Eyes Hardcover – June 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525477357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525477358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,298,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francisco X. Stork is the author of five novels: The Way of the Jaguar (Bilingual Review Press- 2000); Behind the Eyes (Dutton: June 2006.); Marcelo in the Real World (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic 2009; The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (AAL/Scholastic 2010); Irises (AAL/Scholastic 2012).The Way of the Jaguar was the recipient of the Chicano/Latino Literary Award. Marcelo in the Real World was the recipient of the Schneider Book Award and has been translated into seventeen languages. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors was the recipient of the Elizabeth Walden Award and the International Latino Book award. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico in 1953. He came to El Paso, Texas with his adoptive father when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College (a Jesuit College in Mobile Alabama). He received a Danforth Fellowship to Harvard University where he studied Latin American Literature with, among others, Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet and Nobel laureate. After four years of graduate school, dissatisfied with the scholarly writing required of a future college professor, he left to attend Columbia Law School hoping to make a living and support his family by practicing law while writing fiction. Fifteen years and a dozen legal jobs later he published his first novel. He currently works as a lawyer for a state agency in charge of developing affordable housing. Writing novels for young adults is his vocation.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on November 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork is a quick but thoughtful read, and a window into the difficulties that face adolescents, especially those living in housing projects. Behind the Eyes tells the story, in an flashback-filled fashion that builds suspense, of sixteen-year-old Hector Robles. Hector grew up in a housing project in El Paso, TX. He lives with his mother, older brother, and younger sister, his father having died a year earlier. Hector is a good student and even an altar boy, who has spent his years trying to stay out from under the radar of the local gang, the Discipulos. His older brother, Filiberto, is not so careful, however, and drags the family into trouble. The book begins in compelling fashion:

"Hector missed his brother's wake. He missed the funeral. Dr. Hernandez, the intern who treated him in the emergency room, had told him it would be at least a week before he could leave. The ear, the ribs, the spleen, all had to be evaluated. All needed stillness in order to begin to heal."

Though we don't know the details at first, it becomes clear that Hector has gotten himself into trouble over the matter of his brother's death. Both legal trouble and trouble with the Discipulos. A social worker offers him an out, one which he has little choice but to accept: admission/sentencing to Furman, a San Antonio school for troubled youths who are believed to have some chance of redemption.

Furman is a military school, one with locks and wire fences, filled with an array of juvenile delinquents. Hector has a rough start, but eventually finds himself learning from the teachers and the other students. He also encounters an unexpected enemy, and must use his new skills and friendships to save himself from disaster.

I liked Hector a lot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By HJ on June 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A lovely book which is the perfect marriage of style with story. It is a young adult's book, yes, but that's to say Huck Finn is a young adult's book. It is, but there's something there for those of us who find young adulthood a fond memory. Hector, the main character comes of age in that he has aged quickly when his brother is killed and takes a sort of revenge that lands him in what used to be known as a reform school. But Hector is an individual, with brains, feelings, insights, and enormous powers of observation and that is the charm of this. To take someone that many of us would overlook on the streets or on the subways and show us that he can be complex, suffer pain, have decisions put upon him that are difficult to make and make them and make them in the right way is what makes this as much of an adult book as a young adult's book. Don't be fooled by the simple language, there was simple language in the Old Man and the Sea, wasn't there? So buy this and enjoy and appreciate Hectors everywhere struggling not to come of age, but to come out of themselves into a world that will age them too quickly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Growing up in a violence-ridden housing project, sixteen-year-old Hector Robles kept his head to the ground. A studious boy, he was the last person anyone would expect to end up on the wrong side of a feud with the local gang. However, when his impulsive older bother sets his sights on Gloria, the neighborhood knockout and on-again, off-again girlfriend of Chava, leader of the Discípulos, that's exactly what happens.

Victim of his own impulsiveness, Hector gets caught in what seems to be a never ending cycle of violence. When he realizes that leaving El Paso is the only thing he can do to protect himself and his family, Hector agrees to go to Furman, a reform school one step away from a juvenile detention facility. The influence of the Discípulos is far-reaching and, even with the protections that Furman offers, Hector knows that he is not completely safe.

A coming of age story centered around finding inspiration in unexpected places, building internal discipline, and the importance of overcoming fear, Behind the Eyes charts Hector's rocky journey to manhood and self-knowledge. Throughout the novel, Stork juxtaposes the present with the recent past, allowing the reader to gain insight into Hector and the reason he is at Furman while Hector is struggling to understand his own part in what happened in El Paso.

Peopled with a vast array of fairly realistic characters, the novel explores the all-too-real struggles of children growing up in the inner city. However, while the story is interesting and compulsively readable, it lacks a sense of urgency. Despite being set both in the projects of El Paso and within a military-style reform school, Behind the Eyes fails to be as gritty as expected. Though this may be because the book is targeted to a young adult audience, one can't help feeling that the book has been somewhat sanitized. That being said, an unexpected ending does give the novel - and Hector's character - substance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on December 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Hector Robles's life will never be the same again. Living his entire life in the projects of El Paso, Texas, he's always stayed away from the gangs--but his brother Filiberto brought an end to that. A little more than a year after the death of their father, Hector, Fili and their younger sister Aurora have a run-in with some members of the Discipulos. Hector would like to keep out of their way after that, as would Aurora, but Fili sets his sights on Gloria...Who just happens to be dating Chava, leader of the Discipulos.

Fili just can't let it go. His conflict with Chava escalates until one night, he ends up dead. In less than a year and a half, Hector has lost his older brother and his father. Even though it's not something he could have imagined himself doing, Hector goes after Chava.

Chava does more damage to Hector than Hector does to him, leaving Hector with various rather serious injuries, including the loss of his hearing in one ear. When he recovers, a social worker has some rather grave news for him: Chava wants him dead. The only way he can keep safe, as well as protect his mother and sister, is to leave town.

Mrs. Garzo, the social worker, tells him there's one good place for him to go now. He's charged with the aggravated assault of Chava, and there's a school in another city that accepts kids who have been in trouble with the law. There, he'll be safe from the Discipulos, he'll get a good education, and his mother and sister won't be involved with the gangs anymore. Hector makes a decision: he'll go to Furman.

There, he makes friends with a colorful cast of characters, and could maybe have a fresh start and a new life...If his past can ever stop following him.

BEHIND THE EYES is divided up into three parts.
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