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Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood Paperback – May 10, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–Benjamin Alire Sáenz's realistic story (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004) of one young man's coming of age comes off the page with Robert Ramirez's authentic and quiet reading. The novel is set at the end of the 1960's, not in California's semi-mythical movieland, but in a Las Cruces, New Mexico, barrio. Juliana, Sammy Santos's first love, dies at the beginning of the story. Although he doesn't forget her, Sammy's attention—and the listener's—must turn to the present as he moves on through his life. Studious, responsible, but able and willing to stand up to authority when the cause is right, Sammy's high school days include helping his widowed father care for his younger sister, student protests, the reality of the Vietnam War, friends who fall victim to drugs, and other friends who are banished from the community for being gay. Sammy dreams of leaving Hollywood for college, but tempers his dream with the knowledge that he may never get away. Teen listeners, whether or not they share Sammy's Latino background, will appreciate his authenticity as well as the details relevant to the era.– Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933693991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933693996
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read it first before giving it to my teen and subsequently encouraged her to turn her friends on to it. She was hesitant saying, "Mom, they don't read books." Well, she did and they been passing this book around ever since. Now we've read all the books this author has written.
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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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I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I have a problem. I ordered this audible book before but received the text. Will I be able to return it for credit or refund? How do I do It without paying shipping charges? The same thing happened with "The Litigators". I'm losing my eyesight so I really enjoy the audio books. I especially love Benjamin Saenz.
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Format: Paperback
Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood is the story of one teenage boy's coming-of-age, but at the same time, it's so much more than that. Denise Chávez explains, "Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is our American Graffiti. No, that's not right. It's our Mexican Graffiti" ([...]). It's a statement about life--life as a Mexican teenager living in a small town in the United States in the late 1960s. Sammy Santos lives in the Hollywood barrio of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The novel is the story of his senior year of high school--the year he must deal with the violent death of his girlfriend, the reality of the enduring poverty of his family, the racist policies of his high school, and the consequences of the Vietnam War. While set in the 1960s, it's a book that I believe will speak strongly to our students today. In fact, I wish I had read this book sooner, before my years as a middle school teacher. I saw older versions of my students in its pages.

Unfortunately, many of our students will never hear about this book, much less be given the opportunity to read it. Its drawback? An unflinching author who doesn't withhold the painful details. While doing research on the book Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood I came across the following discussion of the book on the blog A Literary Odyssey.

"This is a book I would love to teach to students, but probably will never be able to. Why? This book is too honest about the lives of teenagers and the darker side of life and humanity. It also contains a lot of profanity, but what I believe to be necessary profanity. It would not have as much power over the reader as it does without it."

Now that I've read the book, I understand. Sadly, it's probably true. Many teachers won't ever use this book.
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