by Restrepo, Bettina

Nora, a fifteen-year-old Mexican girl, faces the challenges of being an illegal immigrant in Texas when she and her mother cross the border in search of Nora's father.

*Starred Review* Nora's beloved Papa has been working illegally on a construction site in Texas and sending money back home. But when the letters and money stop coming, Nora and Mama leave family behind and set out to find him. After being smuggled across the border in a stifling, packed mango truck, they struggle to survive with false papers in Houston, where they find no work. No Papa. No nothing. With depth and detail, Restrepo tells the story of contemporary illegals. Never sentimental, this debut novel is clear about the characters' harsh daily struggle for shelter, food, and community, as Nora fights off violence, including an attempted gang rape; makes friends (who also need help); and questions her faith in God. Her insistent dream is to go to school, and she also longs for shoes that fit and pierced ears for her quincea˝era celebration, to mark her fifteenth birthday. At times, the prose veers into docu-novel territory, but the unsparing language keeps the tension mounting as well as the heartbreak: Nothing but their broken dreams hung in the air, and they stank. The teen's immediate first-person narrative will hook readers with its gritty specifics, honest anger and sorrow, and the small acts of kindness that occur throughout the harrowing journey. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

When Nora's dad left their small Mexican town, Cedula, to make money for the family in the United States, he promised to be back for her 15th birthday quincea├▒era celebration. Now three years later, Cedula, without "even a stinking drug dealer in this town to spread the cash around," has closed its schools, families are moving away and 14-year-old Nora worries her father won't return in time. When his money stops arriving, her family risks losing its land and she hears a voice telling her to flee, Nora convinces her mother to use their savings to be smuggled across the border to look for him. With searing realism, debut author Restrepo describes Nora's anger, desperation and loss of faith when she and her mother arrive, barely alive in the back of a fruit truck, in Houston to a barrio that's characterized by racial division, gangs, violence and filthy living conditions. Giving up her dreams about her father's promise and American prosperity, Nora simply wants to find the truth and survive in her foreign surroundings. Newfound friends, struggling with their own poverty and gang threats, and community, made up of all kinds of outsiders, combine with her own indomitable spirit to give her the courage to fight to belong. This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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