CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 11. . . .November 13, 2015
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2015.
150 pp., pbk., hc., html & pdf, $12.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-756-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-757-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-758-9 (html), ISBN 978-1-55451-759-6 (pdf).
Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.
Review by Amy Westbury.
I sit and catch my breath and look across the river. The big manís still there, waving a fist in the air, his voice like a drone of mosquitos. I start yelling back at him, the two of us having a shouting match across a brown rustling river, his voice strong with rage while mine sounds scratchy and worn. Then we quiet, and itís just the two of us looking at one another like weíve run out of things to say. The whole thing is ridiculous Ė Mexico, the United States, what the two countries do to each other. All of itís a bad dream and itís like the militiaman and me are both waking up from it at the same time.
In Diegoís Crossing, 17-year-old Diego dreams of a brighter future in his small town near the Mexican-United States border. He tries to resist following the path of his criminal older brother but reality offers little hope. After a slow-paced opening, the novel quickly moves into high gear as the brutality of the Mexican drug trade begins to truly make a mark on the family as an unfortunate accident forces Diegoís hand as he must deliver drugs across the border in order to protect his family and save his brotherís life.
Participating in the exact business he and his father despise, Diego must traverse across dangerous drug-cartel territory and see the horrifying effects of heroin on all those involved with the drug. This first-person narrative unfolds itself in a gritty and action-packed manner that echoes the style of a hand held single-camera Hollywood film. Each part of Diegoís journey is well detailed with superb use of figurative language allowing easy visualization of the locations, characters and high-stake scenes in the novel.
In his first young adult book, Robert Hough has done a solid job creating tension on the page with an ever-growing sense of danger from all angles of the story. The realities of the Mexican-United States border and the negative impact on those living near it are especially well examined. Readers will undoubtedly feel the heavy weight of the stress Diego carries on his shoulders: concern for his parents, anger at his brother, pressure from the drug cartel and the uncertain nature of his own future.
Teens readers will connect to themes of conflict, decision-making, and determining right from wrong. Yet the novel doesnít preach a preferred solution to its audience nor does it attempt to identify the correct path for the main character to take. Instead, Diegoís Crossing offers an opportunity to view the rocky path of male adolescence as it climbs through new terrain and into the transition to manhood.
With its open-ended conclusion, Diegoís Crossing leaves it up to the reader to determine what direction Diegoís life path will take: will he follow in his brotherís footsteps and enter the drug trade for himself, or will he find another way out of the shadows and away from the small-town and limited choices that confine him? This short but impactful novel is sure to engage all readers, including reluctant ones, and get them talking not only about Diegoís choices but also the decision they, themselves, face as they begin to cross into adulthood.
Amy Westbury is a teacher-librarian at Bruce Trail Public School in Milton, ON
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