Pancho has nothing left but revenge. His mother died when he was young; his father was killed in a tragic accident; and his sister's murderer is walking
free. But, not for long. Pancho has a very clear and precise plan: find the murderer and kill him. After that, Pancho doesn't care what happens to himself. At least, he didn't until he met D.Q., a fellow resident of St. Anthony's Home.
D.Q. suffers from a rare form of cancer that is rapidly killing him. As a result, he decides to write the Death Warriors Manifesto in an effort to teach others about the fullness of life. Struggling with his own set of issues, he sees something in Pancho worth saving. As these two become unlikely friends, they learn about love, loss, and forgiveness during the last summer of the death
This is simply a wonderful story about friendship. Of course,
there is a love triangle, but Stork deals with it so succinctly that it adds to the overall message instead of distracts from it. Also, this is the kind of story that can easily fall into cliches and predictable subplots; luckily, the author keeps it moving by connecting the reader with each character's struggles and choices that they face when they approach a fork in the road that has lasting effects.
Something else that I appreciated without even realizing it was the quiet mastery with which Stork conveyed this story. I am a
bit tired of overly dramatic and violent scenes that some authors feel they need to include to present the intensity of the moment. But, this author was able to portray those same emotions (and intensity) simply by creating well-developed characters who the reader felt like she "knew." For instance, he was even able
to humanize the murderer so that the reader found herself struggling with Pancho's desire for revenge.
All-in-all, this novel is a realistic look at a young man struggling for justice in his life. Just when he thought he was all alone, someone reached out to save him - even when he didn't want to be saved. Through it all, Pancho is provided choices, like all of us, and he must realize that for every action, there is a equal or lesser reaction.
Hiram Hillburn loves Mississippi; he loves the neighborly community, the slow-paced atmosphere, and, most of all, his grandpa. But, there is an undercurrent of racism that is about to explode that he never knew existed until he's right in the middle of it.
Chris Crowe uses the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy, Hiram Hillburn, to relay the events of the true story surrounding the murder of a fourteen-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, which spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago, IL, and was unaware of the intense racism and hatred that whites held for blacks in the South when he went to visit his relatives in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. In a spur-of-the-moment decision to show off for his cousins, Emmett thought it would be funny to whistle at a white woman, and it cost him his life. Four days after the incident, his body was found floating in the Tallahatchi River, beaten, mutilated, with a bullet to the head. Even though the quiet community of Money, Mississippi, was shocked at such brutal treatment of a child, they weren't going to let two white men go to prison for the death of a black.
This story begins slowly because the author is trying to set up the plotline of the sixteen-year-old narrator and how he came to know Emmett "Bobo" Till during the very brief time they were in Mississippi. Even though Hiram Hillburn never existed, all of the newpaper references and court scenes are from actual documents, which leave the reader in utter shock at how corrupt the Southern jury was as well as the court system as a whole when it came to the murder/lynching of blacks. This book will open the eyes of every reader who gazes upon its pages, and make them mourn for all of the innocents that racism has killed.
This is not the most action-packed novel. It is written as historical fiction, but it's an excellent piece of literature that teachers could implement into their classrooms to set up the context of the Civil Rights Movement. Be aware, however, that the author uses the "N" word throughout the novel to give it authenticity to reflect the Southern dialect and mindset during that time.
Kidd knows tragedy. He has a father who loves drugs more than his family, and a mother who seeks solace in alcohol. As a result, he finds himself at Horizons, a group home, where he meets Devon, a boy with a volatile personality and a death wish.
Kidd decides to run away, ends up working maintainance on the beaches of Cardiff, CA, and falls in love with the most beautiful and mysterious girl he's ever known, Olivia. Things seem to be looking up for Kidd until Devon knocks on his door determined to teach him a few lessons about life. Afraid that Devon will hurt Olivia in order to get to him, Kidd confronts his old friend, and one of them doesn't make it out alive.
This novel faces some very difficult issues such as abuse, racial identity, class, and mental illness. Although the reader recognizes certain nuances of de la Pena's writing, the voice is unique and the writing style is more fluid. Since it opens with a murder, readers are drawn into the plot the moment they open the book and find themselves turning page after page to find out what led up to the point that a young man's body was plunged over a cliff. flag
"And here's the thing: it's not even that your life changes because of what you *did*, I don't think...Nah, man, it's not even that. People change because they discover that this supposed line between being a good person and being a bad person doesn't actually exist. They realize that shit's straight make-believe." - Miguel
When Miguel gets sent to Juvi, he no longer cares about what happens to himself; after what he did, he doesn't even believe he deserves the luxury of life. Therefore, he decides to go through the motions of doing his time by writing in his court-ordered journal, and attending mandated counseling sessions with an ex-hippie-surfer, Jaden.
Then, one night, a fellow inmate, Mong, suggests that they run away to Mexico to get a fresh start. Miguel agrees to run, not because he wants to be free, but because he wants to escape his past. What he doesn't realize, however, is that he can't run from himself.
Matt de la Pena weaves a story of tragedy, friendship, and self-discovery using a group of unlikely characters; characters that society, for all intents and purposes, has written off. As they go on this journey, the reader learns that good lies within all of us, and sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. De la Pena does a great job of using humor and suspense to keep his reader on her toes - not to mention a few twists that leave her in utter shock. flag