Picking up a week after the grueling journey chronicled in The Only Road (2016), Diaz’s profound sequel finds 12-year-old Jaime Rivera and his cousin Ángela adjusting to life in El Norte.
Jaime doesn’t know English too well, and his first days at school result in an unfortunate bathroom accident, mocking giggles from his classmates, and snide comments from the class bully, Diego. To Jaime’s horror, Ángela seems to have changed overnight, making new friends with ease, switching to English almost exclusively, and acting aloof about their recent odyssey. Meanwhile, the specter of deportation looms endlessly, and terrible news from Guatemala involving Abuela and the Alphas erases any hope of returning to their village any time soon. Like its predecessor, this timely follow-up addresses the threats that immigrants and refugees face daily in El Norte, where “talk of a massive wall and deporting all of us” continues unabated. Diaz keeps the intimate third-person narration intact as she skillfully explores Jaime’s new life in New Mexico, although the novel’s noble objectives often deny any meaningful character development. Fortunately, well-sketched friends and family offer Jaime support in unexpected ways, including Sean, a deaf, white schoolmate who incites a pleasant subplot, and the gentle Don Vicente, an old Mexican cowboy whose relationship with Jaime forms the heart of the novel.
An incredibly heartfelt depiction of immigrants and refugees in a land full of uncertainty. (author’s note, references, further reading, glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)