JESSE by Gary Soto


Age Range: 12 & up
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 Jesse is a 17-year-old Chicano, struggling through the complexities of adolescence in the 1960s. He is as much like a normal teen as he is different. He wonders about his future, pursues a girl in his science class, and tries to succeed in school. But he also questions the plight of migrant workers, the Vietnam War, and the leadership of Cesar Chavez. He lives the simple life of a field worker and attends community college with his brother Adam. Jesse's concern for Adam's deepening involvement with their landlady's daughter, Glenda, a non-Hispanic single mother, shows Soto's (Too Many Tamales, 1993, etc.) skill at delineating character. In the subtlety of this three-way interaction, the differences of class, gender, and race set the story smoldering with an almost imperceptible uneasiness that grows toward the final chapters. Soto extends to novel length the same quiet honesty he displayed in his short-story collection, Baseball in April (ALA Best Book, 1990). The mere depiction of this teen's life, and his attempts to better himself, are a far greater indictment of racism and class distinction than any finger-pointing sermon could be. A satisfying and enlightening story. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-240239-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994


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