Book Review Times Two!

Return to SenderX: A Novel

Happy 4th, fly friends! I have a wonderful surprise for you; a book review with not one book but two! (Rhyme Master up in here y’all)

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

After Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences? In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.

The Good:

This book presents a perspective that is very valuable to look at. It shows illegal immigration from the POV of a Mexican girl and a very patriotic American boy. I like the contrast in their views and how Ms. Alvarez shows each of them as humans.

The cast of characters is quite interesting and diverse I especially love the Grandma and the three sisters.

The Bad:

Tyler’s older sister Sara is very cliché. The teenage girl obsessed with clothes and makeup, has a new boyfriend every week and complains all the time. There was no substance to her at all and that really bothered me.

Also part of the story is written in 3rd person present POV which took some getting used to and it isn’t my favorite style.

I also think it was just too long. Although the story kept me engaged it felt unnecessarily long.

The Beautiful:

These quotes:

“Paper can hold anything. Sorrows that might otherwise break your heart. Joys with wings that lift you above the sad things in your life.”

“Friendship is a country everyone can belong to no matter where you are from.”

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies–after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion–and that he can’t run forever. X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

The Good:

Malcolm X is one of the major African-Americans you hear about, especially during Black History Month, right up there with Martin Luther King Jr. But even as an African-American I didn’t know much about his childhood and adolescence. This book showed me a side of Malcolm X that I never knew about.

Although this is a work of fiction many of the events and people mentioned in it are real. And the prose just comes off the page, like it’s alive. I walked the streets of Harlem with Malcolm. I heard the jazz music in the clubs he went to. It was all so beautifully described and expertly written.

I appreciated the use of 1st person present POV as it allowed me to be even further immersed in the book.

The Bad:

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, just a word of caution. This book has lots of drugs and alcohol, some sex, though not explicit and some language.

The Beautiful:

Well like I said in my What Went Down post the cover is beautiful. But also the fact that Malcolm was able to go from getting pleasure from substances and bad things to getting pleasure from the written word. It shows the power of books and of language.

Stay fly friends

~Akilah

 

 

 

 

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