Author: Alexandra Diaz
Age group: 8 - 12 years
Page count: 320 pages
Publication date: October 4th, 2016
Summary from Amazon:
Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.
Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.
Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.
Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.
The Only Road portrays what it's like to travel from Central America to the United States and the difficulties immigrants face. America is seen as an opportunity for a better life. We are biased when we learn about immigration from Central America to the United States, and The Only Road helped me understand the differences we have, but also how we are all alike. The sacrifices people make and the risks they take to live in America opened my eyes to how blessed I am to live in a safe community. This book showed how many people do not make the trip to America: they die by the hands of the mafia and the police, they cannot pay for transportation, or are deported back to their home country. The hardships they endure are astounding. The immigrants have so many obstacles in their way; some are just children seeking to avoid problems at home. Yet they would risk their life to have more opportunities. It taught a great lesson about understanding others.
I learned a lot about different cultures in Central America and the conditions there. People aren't paid very much and they live in fear of being recruited to sell drugs. Anyone who turns down the Alphas, or other mafias, are killed, like Miguel. Learning about the brutal conditions immigrants live in helped me understand why the would want to move to America. The cover and the glossary also helped me understand the story. At the end of the book, there is a glossary of Spanish terms. The map of Mexico on the cover of The Only Road showed me the path Jaime took.
The characters are very resilient in the face of adversity. If I was in a similar situation, I would be paranoid. Even though they are alone and are faced with the possibility of dying, they press forward to protect their families and themselves. I liked the character of Jaime. Jaime was a curious, determined boy who took responsibility for his actions. He cared about his friends and helped them. He doesn't care what it takes to make something right. His life had been turned upside down when he was threatened by the Alphas, but he does his best to save his family trouble by persevering to the end.
There is a lot of action in The Only Road. The characters have to escape and hide from police officers, bargain with people to take them different places, and hop onto fast-moving trains where they could lose a limb. It's horrifying to me things like that occur daily to people. I enjoyed the action in the book because the characters pushed their way through the challenges and even though they were facing rough times, helped others as well.
The Only Road is a realistic, gripping story that teaches readers how to interpret and understand problems in the world differently. It taught a difficult topic in a well-written MG book that will be an inspiration to a lot of readers.
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