A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale.

Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.

Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.”

A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-840-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017


Two Rio Grande Valley high schoolers flirt with cutting out early but find reasons to finish school in this purposeful but intense tale. For Beto, it’s a combination of pride, disinterest in school and a clash with his caring but harsh father that sends him stalking away to spend the night in a Dumpster. For Beto's longtime friend Jessy, it’s a strong desire to be an artist, plus the strain of hearing her father beating her mother and knowing that her turn will be coming up one of these nights, that drives her to head for the bus to San Antonio. Using a mix of tenses and all three persons, Saldaña lays out his characters’ thoughts and emotional landscapes in broad strokes—creating a third angle of view by adding Beto’s little brother Roelito, who works his nalgas off in school but shows early signs of an ominous anger, as another narrative voice. The action takes place over the course of a little more than 12 hours, neatly capturing the spontaneity of teen impulses. Teen readers chafing at the domestic bit will find food for thought here. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55885-607-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010


“Death is a period / at the end of a sentence,” concludes Annaleah, the 16-year-old protagonist of Schutz’s captivating fictional follow-up to her verse memoir (I Don’t Want To Be Crazy, 2006). And much like the resolute finality fixed in that tiny dot, Annaleah spends a great deal of this free-verse novel stuck contemplating the harsh reality that her sometime boyfriend, Brian—a seemingly healthy, dark-haired, cloudy-blue–eyed 17-year-old—has just dropped dead on the basketball court. Reeling from both physical loss and lack of closure to the meaning of their clandestine relationship, Annaleah finds herself routinely visiting and addressing the deceased Brian, until a chance graveside encounter yields advice that finally begins to hit home: “Nothing grows here,” says Brian’s grandmother, “besides grass.” At first blush appearing to pull out all the melodramatic stops in classic teen fashion, these refreshingly spare lines tackle tough relational issues—intimacy, risk, abandonment—with aplomb, making for a moving tale that also effectively shows teens how life can go on. (Fiction/poetry. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 970-0-545-16911-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: PUSH/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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