I am continuing my series of reviewing books for your class or FVR library in hopes that it will help you make decisions as you build your library. (See my review of Estatua, La Casa de la Dentista and Vidas Impactantes as well.) I have seen Jennifer Degenhardt’s books before, but it was the Cult of Pedagogy’s podcast about making school a safe space for LGBTQ students that fully convinced me. This book is one of the only books that I have seen to have a character who identifies as homosexual. Therefore, it is important to have in my library, so I can continue to support students.
The plot is that Jack and Marissa are best friends, but their relationship changes when Julio comes to school. Although this book takes place in the United States, Julio’s family is Puerto Rican. The book discusses Puerto Rican food, families and Operation Bootstrap. One of my favorite parts was when Jack and Julio take a field trip to the Museo del Barrio. This incorporated the art seamlessly into the book.
I also appreciate that the ending is not your typical fairy tale ending. Not everyone is happy, and relationships are damaged in the process of the book. This mirrors what happens to high schoolers. As we all know, friendships do not always last throughout your high school career. I believe that many students will identify with that aspect of the book. It would be interesting to hear student reactions at the end of the book. Can they identify with the ending of friendships and relationships? Would they do anything differently than the characters in the book?
As far as a level goes, this would be a difficult read for level 1 and 2. The language is not as sheltered as easy level 1 or 2 books. However, for some motivated students in level 2, they could probably read it with relying heavily upon the glossary or with assistance from a teacher. Late level 3 could manage it independently. However, as many teachers have found, when students are motivated and connected to the content, they will push themselves to read something more difficult. Since this reflects the lives of many students, I would think that many students would read it. You could also read it as an all class book in upper levels. The culture tie-ins would be great to explore in class. I would encourage most teachers to buy this book unless you just teach level 1. You can purchase it on Amazon.