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JUVENTUD by Vanessa Blakeslee


by Vanessa Blakeslee

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-940430-58-4
Publisher: Curbside Splendor

A young girl discovers her father’s shocking secret, and the course of her life changes drastically as a result.

Debut novelist Blakeslee introduces readers to Mercedes Martinez, a 15-year-old Colombian girl enjoying a comfortable life within the gated communities of her country’s upper middle class. Despite the civil conflict driven by narcotrafficking raging around her, she's kept at a safe distance by her father, an accomplished farmer with a vast network of workers and associates. But when Mercedes becomes involved with a young man motivated to change the country and uproot the corruption defining Colombian politics, she’s confronted with a series of troubling revelations about who her father truly is and why her mother left years before. This new information prompts her to take extreme and sudden steps to leave Colombia, setting her on an unexpected path as she enters her late teens. The bulk of the novel is given over to a short period preceding her decision to leave, setting up the tragedy that haunts her for the rest of her life. Although the payoff is strong, maintaining interest in what feels like two books combined into one can be trying. The story succeeds in exploring the nuanced and complex world of the drug trade, religion, and law enforcement in Colombia and later touches on the way they impact policy on a much wider level. Though the narrative is uneven early on, with scenes that feel forced and turns that feel extremely sudden, it levels out as it goes along, and the conclusion is gratifying enough to make sticking with it worth the effort.

Ambitious in the ground it covers and moving at times, but it falls short at the many hairpin plot turns.