Author: Rene Saldana, Jr
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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.
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.