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Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood Hardcover – August 1, 2004


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An Ember in the Ashes
"An Ember in the Ashes"
When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.Learn more | More in Teen and Young Adult
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An Ember in the Ashes
"An Ember in the Ashes"
When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.Learn more | More in Teen and Young Adult

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938317814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938317814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,713,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–Sammy Santos–responsible, bright, and self-contained–grows up in the Hollywood barrio of Las Cruces, NM, during the last half of the 1960s. Sáenz provides the Mexican-American teen with a voice that is genuine and compelling, realistic in its limitations and nuances as he comes to grips with the death of Juliana, his first love, and the increasingly complex demands and needs of his remaining friends, as well as of his family and neighbors. Subplots involve the role of the Church in the barrio, the movement from authoritarian school administrations to the loosening of rules during the Vietnam War period, the realistic portrayal of what happened to too many gay teens during this period (and continues to happen today), the effects of the draft on poor young men of color, the roles adopted by individual teens as they mature within a community's social order, and family ties that require people to choose sometimes for themselves and sometimes for others in the family. Sáenz works through all this material neatly and so effectively that Sammy deserves to become a character of lasting interest to both casual readers and literature classes. Expletives appear throughout as do large helpings of Spanish, without italics and not always with English echoed afterward, in perfect keeping both with Sammy's world and his self-perception. His hopes and plans for a better life, beyond the hold of Hollywood are poignant and palpable. This is a powerful and authentic look at a community's aspirations and the tragic losses that result from shattered dreams.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 9-12. "Someone's gonna hurt you. And you're gonna wish you never had a heart." The warning quickly becomes reality as Sammy struggles with his girlfriend Juliana's violent death. Sammy and Juliana's Hollywood is a New Mexico barrio, where Sammy loses more than his virginity and his girlfriend during his difficult 1969 senior year. A good student and an avid reader (his classmates nickname him "The Librarian"), he works hard for his dream of college. One friend is drafted for Vietnam, another dies of a drug overdose. Two gay friends leave town in exile, and Sammy's father is injured in an automobile accident, altering Sammy's plans. But dad suggests that they shouldn't feel so bad about loss: "I mean--it's the only thing we're good at." The barrio setting is as palpable as the wings that beat against Sammy's insides when danger lurks. The tough but caring family, neighbors, and friends speak in authentic dialogue liberally laced with Spanish that adds texture to the story, and an empathetic teacher and a stand against the school dress code provide a small victory to help Sammy weather the racism and poverty that fuel his emotions and his losses. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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4 star
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See all 12 customer reviews
This novel has it all--vitality, vivid characters, and fluent, often funny prose.
Rebecca Burke
If I had to choose a single "top" book from the 200+ new books for teens that I've read in 2004, SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD would be the one.
N. S.
The resources offered here are meant to encourage teachers to introduce this book to their students.
Katrina E. Dillon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1968, during the summer preceding his senior year at Las Cruces High School in southern New Mexico, seventeen-year-old Sammy Santos hooks up with Juliana Rios. The powerful and achingly tragic story Sammy recounts of Juliana and that summer is but a mere preface in this stunning ode to growing up in the barrio--a neighborhood that some joker has named Hollywood. I alternately laughed, cheered, and cried as Sammy and his Hollywood friends encounter the prejudices, the Church, the hormones, the War, the drugs, the violence, the music, the aspirations, and the dress code, while making their way through that year both inside and outside of the barrio. If I had to choose a single "top" book from the 200+ new books for teens that I've read in 2004, SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD would be the one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karen L. Roemer on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"We have plans. Then something happens." Sammy has plans: to go to college, to get out of the barrio, to love Juliana. Although Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood takes place in the Hollywood barrio of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1968/69, it is a timeless story of teen hopes and fears, love and loss, and what it is like to grow up poor and of color. Sammy, called The Librarian by his friends for his scholarly ways, falls in love with Juliana the summer before his senior year. By summer's end, she has died tragically and senselessly, and Sammy "[doesn't] care. Not about anything. Not anymore." But despite his anger and the pain of his loss, the demands of his friends and his family only increase in his senior year and Sammy is pulled into their lives. These are real teenagers, who drink, party, take drugs, have sex, swear, push the limits of school administrations and the law. Sammy agrees to be campaign manager for Gigi who is running for student body president on a platform of "shakin' up the school." Some of his friends face the draft and service in Vietnam, and everyone knows that poor Hispanic boys of Hollywood come back in pine boxes. Two friends are brutally beaten for being gay. One friend dies of heroin addiction. His father is injured in an automobile accident. Things happen.

Sammy maneuvers through the minefields of student elections, drugs, protests, racism homophobia, and loss and finds a resiliency he doesn't know he has. Like all teenagers, he thinks his life will start when he gets to college. But he is deeply involved in the life of Hollywood. Saenz has found an authentic voice in Sammy who is full of the angst and confusion of all teenagers but is also perceptive, sensitive and compassionate. This is a beautifully realized story of what it meant in 1968 to grow up in the barrio. Today, teens growing up in the ghettos face the same problems Sammy and his friends faced.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By serafina on September 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book I highly recommend. I got it in the mail on Sat and finished it by the next day.
It can be at times very depressing to read, in that Catcher in the Rye type of way. The difference is that Sammy isn't born into a life of priveledge, and his obstacles extend beyond his own wonderings. His immediate world is filled with economic and social hardship.
Sammy goes through so much that you can't even imagine what else could possibly happen, but you want to be there with him when it does. It is very honest, vivid and well-written.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Debra Garfinkle on January 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This novel covers a year in the life of a Hispanic teenager living in a Florida barrio in the late sixties. The voice of Sammy, the main character, is authentic and his personality is vivid and lovable. I was rooting for him from page one through the end.

The author also captures the flavor of the barrio and Sammy's high school through wonderful portrayals of Sammy's girlfriend Juliana, his Hispanic and Jewish friends, his caring family, and his next door neighbor. They practically step off the page.

Finally, the book, through portrayals of Vietnam soldiers, school protests, and diminishing hemlines, makes the late sixties come alive.

Sammy and Juliana is a wonderful novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christina Chavez Kelley on November 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter and I loved this book! Having grown up in Las Cruces, NM in the 1960's and having attended the other high school in the early 1970's, it was extremely easy to relate to Benjamin's jewel of a story. I highly recommend it for families who struggled with all the challenges in high school in a small community. Bejamin deserves a huge gold star!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. N. Tipper on November 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is handsdown one of the best YA books I've read in ages. I am a writer and it made me want to write and write and write. I adored Sammy's voice--increasingly cynical, but with a leading edge of hope. Saenz is brilliant. Read. This. Book.
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More About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother's house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation--being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs--painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border--the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Saenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz­ is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children's books. His young adult novel Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood was selected as one of the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2005, and his prize-winning bilingual picture books for children--A Gift from Papá Diego and Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas--have been best-selling titles. A Perfect Season for Dreaming is Ben's newest bilingual children's book which has received two starred reviews, one from Publishers Weekly and one from Kirkus Reviews. He has received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Lannan Fellowship and an American Book Award. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, won an American Book Award in 1992. That same year, he published his first collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken. In 1995, he published his first novel, Carry Me Like Water (Hyperion), and that same year, he published his second book of poems, Dark and Perfect Angels. Both books were awarded a Southwest Book Award by the Border Area Librarians Association. In 1997, HarperCollins published his second novel, The House of Forgetting. Ben is a prolific writer whose more recent titles include In Perfect Light (Rayo/Harper Collins), Names on a Map (Rayo/Harper Collins), He Forgot to Say Goodbye (Simon and Schuster), and two books of poetry Elegies in Blue (Cinco Puntos Press), and Dreaming the End of War (Copper Canyon Press).

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