Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). Set in a rough New Mexico barrio in the latter 1960s, this story embraces a first true love and its loss, racism, homophobia, war, street violence, family, community…in others words “life.” The prose is at times breathtaking in its poetry and at others jarring in its truths. Sammy’s voice lingers long after the book closes and leaves the reader more thoughtful than before. An absolute triumph! (Ages 14-up). HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
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I don’t remember the last time I found myself so affected by a novel. I cheered, ached, hoped, and cried as I sank into its pages, its world, and read it in one sitting–staying up well past three a.m. to finish. Just holding it in my lap, trying to find the words to explain, is a challenge. This novel sings specificially (unapologetically depicting a community without the common translation trappings) and universally (exploring, no, elevating the human condition). You must read it. You must.