My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very timely look at illegal immigration from the point of view of those who risk it all for a better life. It’s a fast paced and engaging read that’s both harrowing and heartbreaking at times but I’m so glad I read it.
It’s a brilliant debut and one I’d recommend even if it’s not your usual kind of read.
One moment changed their lives forever.
A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.
Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…
This is not the kind of book I probably would have picked up on my own but when the publisher contacted me via NetGalley and offered me the chance to read it I thought why not. Despite a NetGalley shelf that’s starting to creak, I’m so glad I added this to it.
Illegal immigration seems to be a hot topic at the moment no matter where you live in the world so this book about four teens trying to cross the border into the US from Northern Mexico couldn’t be more relevant. It provides a truly fascinating insight into just how desperate many of those trying to find a new life are and challenges the view that many have that they’re all bad or dangerous people who have to be stopped.
The story is told from the point of view of 16 year old Pato who, after witnessing all of his family and most of his friends being killed by a local gang while at a party, has a price put on his head and is forced to go on the run with his best friend Arbo and Marcus and Gladys a brother and sister who also narrowly avoided being killed at the party. With Mexico no longer safe and no one they can turn to the only option open to them is to attempt to cross into America and make a new life for themselves.
Pato is an immensely likeable and surprisingly relateable character. I didn’t expect to have much in common with a 16 year old Mexican boy but there’s something about him that I could definitely empathize with. He seems to have had a relatively sheltered and comparatively privileged life so his life is truly turned upside down and he struggles to cope. The author does a truly wonderful job in making him a very real and completely believable character.
The other three that make up the group were also incredibly well defined. Arbo the best friend is the emotional and soft one who struggles the most, Marco is the tough guy and self imposed leader of the group and Gladys brings balance and a little bit of love to the group. It’s absolutely wonderful how the dynamic between the four changes and develops over the course of the story and I found myself really routing for them to make it despite the odds stacked against them.
The story itself is fast paced and pretty harrowing at times (although I do feel like the author held back a little for the YA audience). The group have more than a few close calls and with gangs chasing them, an inhospitable environment, limited resources and no one to rely on but themselves there’s a big question mark over who if any of them will make it across the desert alive.
Thankfully it’s not all death, violence and struggle however as the author also weaves in some moment of lightness and humor and also a little bit of romance. There’s a lot of struggle but there’s also a lot of hope and that’s what carries the group and the reader through (although I’m not telling you if they make it).
I did have a couple of niggles which I can’t mention due to spoilers but overall I’d say this was a worthwhile read and one I’d definitely recommend.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.
The Border is published on the 5th September.