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HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: June 17th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4169-4963-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove, teenage residents of El Paso, Texas, voice their anguish at growing up without their biological fathers. By default, Ramiro assumes the head-of-the-house role while mentoring his drug-addicted younger brother. Jake erupts with sarcasm and anger due to the tension and frustration of being without adult male guidance, placing him in constant conflict with his needy mother. Contrasting the two lives—Ramiro’s in the barrio and Jake’s among the upper-middle-class—the narrative reveals the challenges both boys face while growing into manhood. Their first-person accounts alternate, a style that makes the prose read like an oral testimony or a confession. There are poignant moments throughout the story, but dated slang will alienate teen readers: Jake repeatedly says, “Can you dig it,” and “It destroyed me.” Many conflicts and plot tangents clutter the boys’ narratives, causing the work to ramble on far too long to maintain teen interest. Still, this is one of the few young-adult novels offering a realistic portrayal of life along the southern border. (Fiction. YA)