Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: A Good Long Way (Saldana)

Title: A Good Long Way
Author: Rene Saldana, Jr
Genre: YA Fiction
Pages: 128
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library (even before I processed!)
Summary (from Amazon): Stop it. The two of you, stop it! You're father and son; you should love each other," Roel yells at his father and older brother as their heated arguement turns into a shoving match. When Beto, Sr. tells his sont hat he either needs to follow the rules or leave, the boy--a senior in high school and a man as far as he's concerned--decides to leave, right then, he has nowhere to go. Maybe his best friend Jessy--a hard-as-nails girl who has run away before--can help him.

The story of Beto's decision to run away and drop out of school is told from shifting perspectives that reveal--in short, poignant scenes--the conflicted lives of Roel, Beto and Jessy. Each one has a good long way to go before growing up. Roel fights against the teachers' assumptions that he's like his brother Beto. Jessy is smart, but most of her teachers can't se beyond her tough-girl facade. And Beto...somewhere along the way quit caring about school.

Review: This slim volume got better and better for me as it went along. It is written in one of my favorite formats: various characters narrating alternating chapters. In this case, three characters share the responsibility of telling the story: Beto, the seventeen-year-old who is the center of the story; Reolita, Beto's younger brother; and Jessy, Beto's best female friend. Each character's voice is distinct and gives the reader a different perspective on the events as well insight into Beto's personality.

Beto faces issues and concerns that many teenagers face: he doesn't like his curfew; his father assumes he's out drinking/smoking/doing drugs; he has run-ins with his teachers; and he isn't doing great in school. What is most frustrating for Beto is that he isn't drinking/smoking/doing drugs and he can't seem to get his dad to believe him. Beto feels like he is a man and should be treated as one; his dad feels Beto is still his young child.

The thing I liked most about this book is that the Latino characters aren't gang members, they aren't stealing, and they don't fit the other stereotypes that many books include. They are just a family having regular issues. I liked that the three teens are smart, caring, and decent human beings. Also, at the end everything isn't perfect, but it's looking up. Beto has come home and he and his dad are both willing to swallow their pride and admit they made mistakes. This is a family that works together to get through difficult times and that is uplifting.

Geography Connection:

This book takes place in small town Texas, but the exact location isn't ever mentioned. The location isn't really important because it could be any town with a Latino population and the characters don't really react to the larger population anyway. The dumpster is relevant because Beto spends one night in a dumpster when he is running away. Click to see my updated Google Map.

6 comments:

Rene SaldaƱa, Jr. said...

Helen: thanks for the kind words. I have fought for a few years to publish this book in this very format, and finally Pinata Books took it on. If I had to set the book in deep South Texas w/o giving away an exact place, it'd be three hours south yet of San Antonio. And thanks also for noticing that these characters don't fit the stereotype. David Rice and Diana Lopez are two other Mexican American writers who are moving away from typing: we aren't farm laborers, gangsters, we don't quit school, etc.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Rene--Thank you for visiting my blog! It is going to be so nice to have a book to recommend to my Latino students where they can have better role models. I am also going to look into books by David Rice and Diana Lopez. Thank you for the recommendations!

MissAttitude said...

Ok I can officially not decide if I should read this book for my next Male Monday or read Shooting Kabul. And you're not helping!

I'm very happy that this book has such a universal theme, a Latino family that doesn't completely hide its roots but doesn't fall into stereotypes either. Refreshing :)

Helen's Book Blog said...

Miss Attitude--You're so funny! I say read them both since they are both short and both good :-)

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

A book about Latinos that doesn't push them into stereotypes? THAT'S my kind of read! Thanks for the review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Julie--I was so pleased to have this book not include the stereotypes that seem to be so pervasive (even with Latino writers!)