Coming of age novel,
This review is from: Dark Dude (Paperback)
This book is a interesting read. It is squarely aimed at the young adult market and deals with many coming of age topics. It is more a book about identity than teenage angst though and has much to recommend it to older readers and fans of Mr Hijuelos. Not as good as 'Mambo Kings' but better than 'Fourteen Sisters' would be my verdict.
Rico is Latino but doesn't fit in with his family because of his blond hair and pale skin and doesn't fit in with the white kids at school either because of his Cuban identity. Living in a drug and crime ridden neighbourhood (Harlem, New York) he can no longer stand and on the verge of being sent to military school for truancy he runs away with a drug addict friend to a farm in Wisconsin.
The book doesn't linger or explore the impact that being a runaway can have on the families left behind but has some gritty, reality check moments. It doesn't glorify being a runaway but doesn't criticise runaways either which may sit bady with some parents.
There are some graphic descriptions of heroin taking and violence. Once in Wisconsin, Rico works in a gas station in sort of a no mans land between his old life in New York and new life on the farm. At the gas station meets all manner of people who help or hinder him, black guys criticise him for being nervous and disrespectful and white guys beat him up for looking puny. The guns and reality of the real world still touch the country farm and Rico realises he can't run away from all his problems.
This book is all about the characters, their interactions and changes a new environment has on their identity rather than having an action filled plot but it is a wonderfully told story. Mr Hijuelos is hard to beat for creating likeable characters and memorable settings. His writing style is also simply beautiful.