When Jake’s friend Maria, the daughter of undocumented immigrants, goes missing, Jake must find her and keep her safe.
Jake and his family are dirt poor. His mother abandoned the family, his father hates his restaurant job, his older brother is in prison, and his younger brother is withdrawn. Jake’s closest friend, a classmate named Maria, doesn’t share much about her life. Maria finally confesses that her parents are in the country illegally. There have been a lot of government crackdowns on undocumented immigration, and Maria is fearful. When she goes missing, Jake and a friend seek the help of their history teacher, who is able to confirm that Maria’s parents were detained by immigration—but not Maria herself. Maria’s parents’ country of origin is never mentioned, and the book assumes a white default. The strength of this narrative is that Jake doesn’t solve Maria’s problems on his own but relies on his community to help. However, the pervasive use of the phrase “illegal immigrant” throughout is troubling. This story is timely but wraps up too neatly to be believable considering the complexities of undocumented immigration. In Mayan Murder, by Martha Brack Martin (D-Day, 2012), Tom goes on vacation to Cancun with his girlfriend and her FBI agent father and gets involved in solving a drug cartel’s kidnapping of a child. In Hide and Shriek, by Alison Hughes (Kasey & Ivy, 2018, etc.), 14-year-old Emily and her friends spy on their shady neighbors, who are involved in an illegal transaction, and are chased down by the criminals.
A fast-paced series that is a good start for reluctant teen readers. (Thriller. 12-18)