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YA, Contemporary, 216 pages, Lerner Publishing Group
- Series: stand-alone
- Pub date: February 1st 2012
- Disclosure: Received a review copy from the author as part of the book tour. Thanks!
After a marijuana-addled brawl with a rival gang, 16-year-old Azael wakes up to find himself surrounded by a familiar set of concrete walls and a locked door. Juvie again, he thinks. But he can't really remember what happened or how he got picked up. He knows his MS13 boys faced off with some punks from Crazy Crew. There were bats, bricks, chains. A knife. But he can't remember anything between that moment and when he woke behind bars.The Long...
Azael knows prison, and something isn't right about this lockup. No phone call. No lawyer. No news about his brother or his homies. The only thing they make him do is watch some white girl in some cell. Watch her and try to remember.
Lexi Allen would love to forget the brawl, would love for it to disappear back into the Xanax fog it came from. And her mother and her lawyer hope she chooses not to remember too much about the brawl—at least when it's time to testify.
Lexi knows there's more at stake in her trial than her life alone, though. She's connected to him, and he needs the truth. The knife cut, but somehow it also connected.
When I sit down to write a review, I try to take two things into account: how I felt while reading a book, and how I felt after I put it down. It's hard to recapture what was going through my head while I was turning pages, though, and even harder to put it into words, so it's the latter category that usually ends up dominating--and this review is no exception. While I was reading this book, I certainly liked it. I fell in love with the characters, even as I was horrified by their actions, I was wholly absorbed in the flashbacks and journal entries, and all in all, it was a delight to read.
And then I reached the end. And that's when I was transformed.
What astounds me the most is how little I saw it coming. Ashley Hope Perez has achieved the holy grail of YA (and really, every genre): the twist that genuinely catches the reader by surprise. And that's all I'm going to say about it, because otherwise I'm sure I'll ruin it, and if you hadn't guessed already, I'm going to expect you all to read this book anyway, so spoiling it would not do.
The other thing that astounded me about this book was how different it was from Perez's debut (which I also loved), What Can(t) Wait, but also how similar in its raw strength and honesty. Where Marisa was gutsy, good-hearted, and smart, despite her problems, Azael and Lexi are one hot mess--but we love them for it anyway. There wasn't a single moment in this book where I didn't buy that these were the kind of kids you'd cross the street to avoid, but there also wasn't a single moment my heart didn't break for them, and though you know this isn't the kind of story with a happy ending, you desperately want it anyway.
With only her second novel, Perez has already reached the upper echelons of my favorite contemporary writers, and I'm dying to see what she comes out with next.
...and the Short:
A must-read with a killer ending and a lot of heart: a thrilling sophomore novel from a dazzlingly talented writer.
The Final Word: Loved it!