Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Title: The Book of Unknown Americans
Author: Cristina Henriquez
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Adult fiction (but really goof for YA)
Pages: 286
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (DE)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the back of the book):
 A boy and a girl who fall in love. Tw families whose hopes collide with destiny. An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American. Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she'll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better.

When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It's also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel's core.

Woven into their stories are testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.

Review: I think this book would be a really good one for high school students. It would give non-immigrants an honest and touching look at what it is like to arrive in the US legally, but without resources. I also think immigrant students would like this book as they would relate to it well and see that there is literature out there that has connections to their experience.

The story centers on a family of three (mom, dad, and 15-year old daughter) who arrive legally in Delaware. During their first few weeks in the apartment building they make friends with the neighbors whose stories of arrival are interspersed throughout the book. Each story is different and equally poignant, showing us the varied lives of immigrants.

About fifty pages from the end I started to wonder how the book would end as it feels like more of a character study than a plot driven novel. However, there is an end. Definitely. I want people to read this book.

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