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Twelve-year-old Mateo lives in Mexico with his mother and grandmother, and his older brother Julian works across the border in the United States to support their family. When a raid on Julian's work site leaves him out of contact and possibly arrested, Mateo journeys across the border himself to find out what really happened.
I enjoyed this contemporary middle grades story on several levels. The vivid descriptions of life in Mexico transported me into Mateo's world. Both his voice and his heart kept me turning the pages; I read the entire book in one day. And yet, the story as a whole left me a bit unsettled.
As an adult who reads mostly YA and MG novels, I rarely find myself reading through the lens of a parent. I've never been troubled by twelve-year-olds slaying monsters or going away to magical boarding schools, maybe because the fantasy element always reminds me that I'm reading a story. But in Until I Find Julian, I couldn't shed my "mother" glasses. Mateo travels alone through Mexico on foot. He pays a coyote to smuggle him across the border, then makes his way to Arkansas relying on the kindness of strangers. With no money, no food, and without speaking English, Mateo manages to find his brother's abandoned home. Until I Find Julian does ultimately end happily, but all along I felt more worried about Mateo than a desire to journey with him.
I plan to have my own eleven-year-old read this book to see how his reaction differs from mine; this may be a time when I'm too far out of the target audience to be objective.
3 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: First by Cold War Kids