De Leon’s propulsive, authentic contemporary YA story centers on Maya, a Guatemalan teen whose unique fashion designs just might win her the coveted prize money and a line of her designs in stores. However, her protective mother fears that the escalating gang violence in their colonia (neighborhood) is out of control. With a Romeo & Juliet romance in play, Maya must make some life-or-death decisions that throw the story into a race-to-the end thriller. Absolutely first rate.
(YA Contemporary Fiction, ages 14+) — Find more Staff Picks by Maureen— Maureen
For seventeen-year-old Maya, trashion is her passion, and her talent for making clothing out of unusual objects landed her a scholarship to Guatemala City’s most prestigious design school and a finalist spot in the school’s fashion show. Mamá is her biggest supporter, taking on extra jobs to pay for what the scholarship doesn’t cover, and she might be even more excited than Maya about what the fashion show could do for her future career.
So when Mamá doesn’t come to the show, Maya doesn’t know what to think. But the truth is worse than she could have imagined. The gang threats in their neighborhood have walked in their front door—with a boy Maya considered a friend, or maybe even more, among them. After barely making their escape, Maya and her mom have no choice but to continue their desperate flight all the way through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of crossing the US border.
They have to cross. They must cross! Can they?
— School Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW*
De Leon’s story offers a real-world truth: immigrants face some of the greatest injustices and uncertain futures, but they carry with them their past, their loves, and a powerful glimmer of hope.
— BCCB *STARRED REVIEW*
The book illustrates the violent consequences of structural poverty, as readers are introduced to characters trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been handed. Their desperation is communicated vividly as well as their determination to keep their loved ones safe.
An engrossing exploration of youths and gang violence.
— Kirkus Reviews
Recommended for its authentic teen voice, close mother-daughter relationship, and especially for its affecting depictions of daily life in Guatemala and the dehumanizing experience of entering the U.S. as an asylum seeker.
— Publishers Weekly