"I mean, it's not as if I want a father. I have a father. It's just that I don't know who he is or where he is. But I have one."
Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don't appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called "Dizzy Land." His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother's shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.
San Antonio Express-News wrote, "Benjamin Alire Sáenz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture, and a generation"; that is proven again in this beautifully crafted novel.
Setting this wise and trenchant coming-of-age story in El Paso, Tex., S enz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) alternates between two teenage narrators from very different backgrounds who nonetheless share the same disfiguring pain their fathers walked out on them years ago. Soft-spoken Ramiro Lopez is the responsible son of a hardworking single mother, a role that intensifies when his bitter younger brother overdoses on heroin; Ram's high school is next door to that of combative Jake Upthegrove, who's disgusted with his mother and stepfather's shallow, materialistic values. As the characters endure traumatic events (Jake catches his stepfather in an affair; the overdose leaves Ram's brother brain-dead), the author shows them developing redemptive friendships all the while preserving their highly individuated voices. The protagonists and their friends seem so real and earn the audience's loyalty so legitimately that it will be hard for readers to part from them. Ages 12 up.