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Not a light breezy beach read, but worth it. The Only Road tells the dark and intense journey of Jaime and his cousin Angela as they attempt to leave their home in Guatemala to resettle with family in America. Jaime and Angela don’t want to leave their village, their family, and the only life they’ve ever known, but after the murder of a family member who refused to join the city’s gangs and signs that they are the next targeted recruits, they have no choice. And so they start on the long, dangerous journey to sneak across the border and find a new – and hopefully, safer – home in the United States. The thing that really struck me about The Only Road is that this isn’t a typical story of kids dreaming of growing up in the glamorous United States, counting down the days until they can leave their sad hometowns behind. Instead, we see a portrait of cousins that love their life in Guatemala, and are heartbroken to have to leave it all behind. Author Alexandra Diaz does a great job mixing the mundane with the thrilling: both representing the “hurry up and wait” moments and building suspense with heart-stopping twists. The Only Road doesn’t sugarcoat the truth (Diaz herself left her family behind in Cuba to come to America as a child), and it could seem scary to more sensitive readers. Common Sense Media recommends ages 9+, saying “There's a lot of harsh reality in this fact-based tale, but also lots of heart.” I see the story as a great tool to start a conversation about the complex realities of immigration, and a way for middle grade readers to make sense of the confusing words and stories that they’re sure to overhear from the news and adult conversations. #bookreview #immigration #weneeddiversebooks
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