Friday, January 6, 2023

Today's read... Borderless by Jennifer De Leon

Today's read takes a glimpse at a girl in Guatemala and her dreams. I found the cover interesting, and the blurb promised quite a bit of tension. Plus, the idea of a main character, who is talented in fashion design mixed with gang violence sounded...well, intriguing. So, I'm curling up in a blanket, sitting in front of our fireplace, and excited to see where this one goes.

Ready to find out?

by Jennifer De Leon
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Young Adult Contemporary
336 pages

APRIL 25th!!!

Caught in the cross hairs of gang violence, a teen girl and her mother set off on a perilous journey from Guatemala City to the US border in this heart-wrenching 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 art 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 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?



Grabbing and nicely-woven, this tale places a girl's inspiring determination against a harsh reality and allows fate to pull both in unexpected ways.

Maya is blessed and not about to give up on the gifts fate has given her. Living alone with her mother in a very small apartment, she attends a top-notch fashion school thanks to a scholarship her talents have earned her. When the school announces a fashion contest with a prize, which could launch Maya's career as a designer, she's determined to do her best and more. But just as she's chosen to enter the finals, her best friend introduces her to a cute and sweet guy. Maya does her best to balance her growing relationship with him and her preparations for the contest. That is, until the violence and gangs make the neighborhood increasingly dangerous. Maya's mother wants to move to another town before something terrible happens, but the contest isn't far away, and Maya does everything she can to convince her to stay just a few more days. And that works...until it doesn't. Now, Maya and her mother are on the run.

I read this book in one sitting and was surprised at how engaged I was and how quick the read flowed. The characters are easy to sink into (most of the time), the scenes flow with ease, and the plot never slows. If Maya isn't doing her best to solve another problem for the fashion contest, she's dealing with her mother's worries about the gangs, handling a changing relationship with her best friend, or figuring out her own new feelings for what may or may not be a nice guy. For every step she gets closer to her dream, an entirely different aspect of life...and not necessarily directly hers...causes things to shift in ways that threaten to destroy her hopes. Or she makes bad decisions herself...which weren't smart. But no matter what, all of this keeps the tension high.

While the blurb suggests that the story concentrates on the journey and escape across the US border, it actually spends most of the time in Guatemala City and Maya's increasingly complicated life. The journey to the border, crossing, and immigration problems once on the US side hit only in the last few chapters, coming across more as a quick wrap-up to an end. Plus, several strings were left open...which some readers will appreciate and others will be left wondering what happened to those characters. (Sebastian?) Either way, it works and leaves off with the open unknown, which Maya herself probably feels.

There is some romance, but this sits as a side-dish to the rest of the plot. There's also violence and death, which may trigger more sensitive readers. And then, there's perseverance, hope, and some food for thought. In other words, it's a packed and interesting read, which is worth picking up.

And here she is...

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.

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