Thursday, December 29, 2016

Diaz, Alexandra. The Only Road.

Diaz, Alexandra.  The Only Road.  Simon & Schuster  2016  320p  $16.99       ISBN 978-1-4814-5750-7  ms  Multicultural  VG          

The Only Road starts out like any other book on immigration, but it quickly becomes a work that will not only engage teen readers, but also teach them.  Immigrants who try to come to the United States do not face challenges with immigration officers at the borders between Mexico and the U. S.  Instead, they face gangs, crooks disguised as friends, hatred, greed and countless dangers that often result in death.  What the reader finds are two teenagers who leave Guatemala with their money sewn into the seams of their jeans, and who resourcefully survive one scary encounter after another.  After surviving a harrowing train ride (during which they face starvation and other bodily harm), they figure out how to use their talents, one with sewing and the other with art, to earn enough money to pay Coyote to drive them across the border.  Along the way, there are some good, honest people who help them, but by and large, these people are few in number.  The list of supporting characters is like something out of a movie -- with Padre Kevin, the priest who harbors the immigrants, and Xavi, the young Salvadorian who introduces Angela and Jaime to Vida.  Vida is the survivor of a dog fight, a dog who miraculously survives thanks to Angela’s handiwork skill with a needle and thread.  Author Alexandra Diaz has written a book that sets itself apart from others, with its creative weaving together of true incidents, its plot that moves seamlessly forward, and its characters.  The theme of wanting a better life enough to give up one’s own life will resonate with young teenagers who are deciding for themselves what they deem worth fighting for. 

This novel is a very good choice for middle-school libraries and world-language classrooms.  The story of illegal immigration, although fictional, needs to be shared first, in exactly this genre, to engage the young in taking a stand on this issue in the future.  Please note that this would be a book of note had it been sent as a final printed edition.  The myriad spacing errors need to be corrected before it can be listed as a Tristate BON.

Summary: If they stay in Guatemala, they will be forced to work for the Alphas, the local gang.  If they leave to join Thomas in the U. S., they will face untold obstacles including the dangerous gangs of Mexico.  Jaime and Angela, with the help of their family, flee. 

Immigration-Fiction, Illegals-Fiction                                                              --Martha Squaresky

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