ILLEGAL by Bettina Restrepo


Age Range: 14 & up
Email this review


When Nora’s dad left their small Mexican town, Cedula, to make money for the family in the United States, he promised to be back for her 15th birthday quinceañera celebration. Now three years later, Cedula, without “even a stinking drug dealer in this town to spread the cash around,” has closed its schools, families are moving away and 14-year-old Nora worries her father won’t return in time. When his money stops arriving, her family risks losing its land and she hears a voice telling her to flee, Nora convinces her mother to use their savings to be smuggled across the border to look for him. With searing realism, debut author Restrepo describes Nora’s anger, desperation and loss of faith when she and her mother arrive, barely alive in the back of a fruit truck, in Houston to a barrio that’s characterized by racial division, gangs, violence and filthy living conditions. Giving up her dreams about her father’s promise and American prosperity, Nora simply wants to find the truth and survive in her foreign surroundings. Newfound friends, struggling with their own poverty and gang threats, and community, made up of all kinds of outsiders, combine with her own indomitable spirit to give her the courage to fight to belong. This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-195342-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2011


ChildrenTELL US WE'RE HOME by Marina Budhos
by Marina Budhos
ChildrenCALL ME MARIA by Judith Ortiz Cofer
by Judith Ortiz Cofer
ChildrenBORN CONFUSED by Tanuja Desai Hidier
by Tanuja Desai Hidier
ChildrenFIRST CROSSING by Donald R. Gallo
by Donald R. Gallo


ChildrenRETURN TO SENDER by Julia Alvarez
by Julia Alvarez
ChildrenMEXICAN WHITE BOY by Matt de la Peña
by Matt de la Peña
AdultWE ARE DISPLACED by Malala Yousafzai
by Malala Yousafzai