“Why can’t I accept things the way they are?”
It’s Moses Vargas’ first day as a freshman at Roosevelt High, and he’s not looking forward to being the new “tonto” at school. He misses his life in Salinas, where he would hang out with his best friend. Moses also doesn’t want to speak to anyone about his father, who’s serving 25 years to life on drug-related charges. Moses gets suspended after a fight when a photo of him with his father in prison circulates among the students. A significant portion of this slim hi-lo novel explores Moses’ anger, pain, and confusion with varying degrees of success. The author, however, excels at depicting a family in tatters, particularly in her portrayal of Moses’ relationships with his parents. Moses can’t understand why his mom wants to wait for his dad. Meanwhile, he struggles to appreciate and care for his father as a flawed human being throughout his prison visits. Support comes from Mr. Gutiérrez, a school counselor, and Dalana, a fellow Roosevelt High student whose father is also in prison. Mr. Gutiérrez begins a Círculo support group at school to reach out to students, including a reluctant Moses. The book features a cast of mainly Latinx characters.
Occasional doses of heavy-handed didacticism and an abrupt ending mar an otherwise fine entry about an underrepresented topic. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-18)