Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Monday, March 14, 2011

author’s website: website
release date: March 8, 2011
appeals to: Young Adult
*2011 Debut Author*
genre: Contemporary Fiction
length: 272 pages
publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

*summary* (from author website)
Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—in wait of her father’s return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her quinceañera. This gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl’s unique, yet universal immigrant experience.

*my thoughts *
This story is absolutely, devastatingly, realistic. From the very beginning, we learn the story of Nora, a (nearly) fifteen year old girl, living in rural Mexico in a town that is falling apart because of the extreme poverty. The people in the town don’t have anything. Their farms aren’t producing goods, they have lost hope, and even the church and school have shut down. The images of poverty in the town are as clear as if they were photographs; making it easy to understand the utter hopelessness that the people feel. That is what leads Nora and her mother to form a plan for escape. The two women travel across the border by hiding in a truck, in what Nora describes as an absolutely terrifying experience, only to arrive in a completely new city, in a new country, with little money, and very little knowledge of English.

While getting to America is supposed to be the hard part of this voyage, Nora and her mother quickly learn that life in America is much harder than they could have imagined. Luckily, they stumble upon some luck when they find a caring couple who given them jobs and an opportunity for housing. From that point on, this book tells the story of Nora growing up so much faster than anyone should have to. She works furiously to earn money, learn the language, make friends, and find her father.
I don’t often read realistic fiction about different cultures, so I am especially glad to have read this story. I feel like I learned a great deal from Nora and her experiences - not only about what the secretive voyage from Mexico to America is like, or what life as an illegal immigrant is like, but about the amazing things that courage and strength can lead people to do. Overall, this was a beautiful story and an incredible debut novel!

On her website, Bettina Restrepo offers a Discussion Guide (link) and information about other stops on the blog tour (link) for the release of this novel.


Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

Wow, this sounds really great! I haven't heard of this book before, but it's definitely one I've gotta keep my eye on. Awesome review Molly! =D

abeautifulmadness said...

It looks good. I'll have to check it out. Great review

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