Archive | July 2012

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Overview:ThImagee author of “Across the Wire” offers brilliant investigative reporting of what went wrong when, in May 2001, a group of 26 men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona. Only 12 men came back out. “Superb . . . Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion . . . The book comes vividly alive with a richness of language and a mastery of narrative detail that only the most gifted of writers are able to achieve.–“Los Angeles Times Book Review.”

My thoughts: LSU Honors College selected this book for Summer Reading in 2012, hence, I read the book. I would love to rate this book as a three or four due to its subject content, but I simply cannot.

My biggest problem is the way the book is structure. The author admits upfront that he could only collect so much data, and so his knowledge is based on the sources he could find. Basically, he retells the story of the Welton  26/Yuma 14 in many different perspectives to the point where the story becomes confusing.

His opening chapter drives me insane. Each section has a different part of the story, usually with a different perspective. I understand that opening with a sporadic chapter adds to the chaos of the story, but it jolts my brain so much and just leaves me confused. I think it would’ve been better if the first chapter was more coherent.

The sporadic changing point-of-view continues through the entire book although the rest of the book isn’t as bad as the first chapter. However, it’s a lot to keep up with. Again, I understand why he does it since he probably doesn’t have all of the story from one person’s perspective, but switching perspectives so many times doesn’t work for me.

From a literary stand point, Urrea does what my teachers have told me not to do. He writes in incomplete sentences, switches point-of-view often, and goes between past tense and present tense. Sometimes, the story flows so well that these “forbidden techniques” work. Other times, I seriously scoff at them. If you’re looking for a well written literary piece, this is not the one for you. If you just want a story about Mexican immigration, this’ll probably be a good one.

Besides structure, I also had a problem with some of the information. More towards the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure of most of the things I read. It seems like Urrea writes about specific situations that laymen wouldn’t know about unless they had previous knowledge of illegal immigration. I had never read anything about that subject matter until this book, so it was hard to keep up with it sometimes. Urrea does use some Spanish, and I could read most of it due to studying the language for about four years, but if there is no explanation for the Spanish, I don’t see the point in including it.

Urrea also tries to include metaphors, but they seem overdramatic and out of place, especially towards the end. I know he’s trying to include Mexican beliefs with the metaphors and make the Yuma 14 event seem horrific at the same time. However, sometimes the metaphors seem like a good thing and at others, they seem like a bad thing, so I just feel conflicted and I have no idea what to think about the ending.

This book isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t work for me. If I had read about illegal immigration before this book, then I think it would have been enjoyable. Also, I think it would have been much better if he had written it from one person’s perspective and then explained everything that happened after the desert episode in another section of the book.
I borrowed this book from my library through the interlibrary loans system.

The Changelings by Elle Casey

Overview: Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

My Thoughts: To begin with, the opening of the story is weak. It’s easy to predict what happens and is stereotypical. Things feel forced together, not meshing until later. The main protagonist is a pain. She’s the kind of student I hate to be in class with because she’s wasting her time and yet blames it on the school, not taking responsibility for her actions. Later on, she does change a bit, so I understand why she acts the way she does in a literary sense. Still, she’s kind of unbearable at first. It’s quite stereotypical that she acts this way at school because she has a poor family life. It seems like the author has almost turned this main character into a statistic.

The scene with Jared on the beach is way too forced. I almost stopped reading at that scene because it was too obvious something was going on. It was really annoying how everything was just out in the open. The author writes more in the telling style than she does in the showing style.

The book didn’t draw me in until the later forest scenes. Sure, some of it is a bit unbelievable and too fast paced, but the writing is much better than in the beginning. The book lacks in-depth descriptions of the settings, so it becomes confusing at times. There are a lot of inconsistencies with the characters and that does detract from the reading experience. Maybe it’s because I’ve read and watched a lot of fantasy things, but the book is very predictable to the point that I rolled my eyes when the main character finally realized what was going on.

My favorite character is Tony. He seems like a well developed character and not that stereotypical although his physical description is stereotypical. I’d love to have him as a best friend. He’s very much an in-control character, which is what I loved about him. I’m really glad he and the main character don’t fall in love. That’d be too stereotypical, falling in love with your best guy friend.

I think most of the characters are a little flat. For instance, Spike smiles, has tatoos, and is the carefree “badboy” (which he’s not at all. Jayne is delusional), Flinn is a redneck who wants beer, and Chase is the strong silent type awkward with emotions. That’s way too stereotypical and common. These characters have a lot of potential that doesn’t develop well in the first book.

Sometimes, I think these characters are insane. They break into laughter over things that aren’t funny at all. I don’t understand the placement of those parts, except maybe to show how desperate they are. Jayne is a pinwheel of emotions. I understand that she acts very much like a high schooler would, but I’m not sure if her emotions should realistically flipflop that much. To me, her emotions become too far flung to be taken seriously. I think she’s a bit different from the usual female protagonist, but I wish someone would take her brain, tie it up, and keep her thoughts straight. Her sidetracked thoughts interrupt the flow of the story.

Overall, the Kindle edition has tons of grammatical errors. They keep staring me in the face, annoying the heck out of me. There are missing commas, misplaced commas, and misspelled words. I think the author needs to check her work or get a better editor. I felt like I was reading a rough draft.

The story had a Hunger Games feel to it, except I think this book is much better than The Hunger Games. Although I don’t particularly like the main character, I didn’t want her to die like I wanted Katniss to. This particular story is geared towards older high school students. This is a book that will probably never make it to any high school library due to the language and implied sexual themes. Honestly, the author does a good job at getting into the mind of a teenager, but by doing that, she has reduced the audience to people who are ok with vulgarity.

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, then you’ll probably like this book. However, be warned, this book contains lots of curse words. It’s not as kosher as The Hunger Games.

I found this book on for free on Amazon and read it on my kindle.