Best Teen Books of the Year, Kirkus Reviews
Junior Library Guild selection
“Riveting.” —Kirkus, starred review
“A testament to the strength of enduring cultural traditions and the possibility of finding family in the unlikeliest places.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This poetic, historical novel is an important addition to libraries given its focus on the consequences of U.S. involvement in Bolivian politics.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“There are writers and there is Melanie Crowder, who advances the art form to such a degree that when you reach the last page you can only hope that she will bless you with another literary masterpiece. Her young adult novel is raw, gripping, poetic and bold as it tackles the lingering aspect of colonialism in South America’s poorest country and America’s unscrupulous War On Drugs in the region. Crowder takes you on an emotional pilgrimage that you won’t want to end.” —RT Book Reviews, five star gold
It’s 1999 in Bolivia and Francisco’s life consists of school, soccer, and trying to find space for himself in his family’s cramped yet boisterous home. But when his father is arrested on false charges and sent to prison by a corrupt system that targets the uneducated, the poor, and the indigenous majority, Francisco’s mother abandons hope and her family. Francisco and his sister are left with no choice: They must move into the prison with their father. There, they find a world unlike anything they’ve ever known, where everything a door, a mattress, protection from other inmates has its price.
Prison life is dirty, dire, and dehumanizing. With their lives upended, Francisco faces an impossible decision: Break up the family and take his sister to their grandparents in the Andean highlands, fleeing the city and the future that was just within his grasp, or remain together in the increasingly dangerous prison. Pulled between two equally undesirable options, Francisco must confront everything he once believed about the world around him and his place within it.
In this heart-wrenching novel inspired by real events, Melanie Crowder sheds light on a little-known era of modern South American history where injustice still darkens the minds and hearts of people alike and proves that hope can be found, even in the most desperate places.