Caught in the crosshairs of gang violence, a teen girl and her mother set off on a perilous journey from Guatemala City to the US border in this “engrossing” (Kirkus Reviews) young adult novel from the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.
For seventeen-year-old Maya, trashion is her passion, and her talent for making clothing out of unusual objects landed her a scholarship to Guatemala City’s most prestigious design school and a finalist spot in the school’s fashion show. Mamá is her biggest supporter, taking on extra jobs to pay for what the scholarship doesn’t cover, and she might be even more excited than Maya about what the fashion show could do for her future career.
So when Mamá doesn’t come to the show, Maya doesn’t know what to think. But the truth is worse than she could have imagined. The gang threats in their neighborhood have walked in their front door—with a boy Maya considered a friend, or maybe even more, among them. After barely making their escape, Maya and her mom have no choice but to continue their desperate flight all the way through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of crossing the US border.
They have to cross. They must cross! Can they?
Jennifer De Leon is an author, editor, speaker, and creative writing professor who lives outside of Boston. She is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, the 2015–2016 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library, and a 2016–2017 City of Boston Artist-in-Residence. She is also the second recipient of the We Need Diverse Books grant. She is the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and Borderless.
De Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From) tackles stereotypes and thoroughly unravels reductive narratives about immigration in this excellent work.. Maya has hopes and dreams of a career in fashion design, winning a school contest, and living her best life in Guatemala City. She attends a well-funded 21st-century private school, has deep generational ties to her community, and a best friend she loves like a sister. This is also a love letter to Guatemala, rich in volcanoes, ancestral villages, textiles, cuisine, fu´tbol, and the Xetulul theme park. But when Maya witnesses a murder, she and her mother must flee their beloved country to save their lives, and the rest of the novel becomes a fast-paced race to the U.S. border. This is an important work that provides readers a nuanced look at a community that is often spoken of with disparaging cliche´s: illegal, poor, illiterate. Seamlessly woven elements result in a poignant, coming-of-age novel. A standout title.
— School Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW*
De Leon’s story offers a real-world truth: immigrants face some of the greatest injustices and uncertain futures, but they carry with them their past, their loves, and a powerful glimmer of hope.
— BCCB *STARRED REVIEW*
The book illustrates the violent consequences of structural poverty, as readers are introduced to characters trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been handed. Their desperation is communicated vividly as well as their determination to keep their loved ones safe.
An engrossing exploration of youths and gang violence.
— Kirkus Reviews
Recommended for its authentic teen voice, close mother-daughter relationship, and especially for its affecting depictions of daily life in Guatemala and the dehumanizing experience of entering the U.S. as an asylum seeker.
— Publishers Weekly