Review for “We Are Not From Here” by Jenny Torres Sanchez (2020)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
At the beginning of this novel, 15-year-old Pulga (“Flea”), Pequena (“Tiny”), and Chico (“Boy”), three teenagers from Puerto Barrio, Guatemala, are living their normal lives. Pulga and Chico are brothers by choice, Pequena and Pulga are cousins. Life is hard in their barrio and trouble lurks around every corner, especially after Pulga and Chico witness the murder of a store owner by a local narco, the same criminal who raped and seeks to force Pequena into marriage. In response, the three teens sneak away from their families and leave for a better life in the United States.
After crossing a river and arriving at the Mexican border, the first obstacle the trio must conquer is La Bestia, a series of trains that run northward through Mexico. Migrants often ride on top of the trains, which are highly dangerous and claim many lives and severed limbs. The teens also face hunger, illness, corrupt police, the grueling heat of the desert, and criminals. Although most of this novel is bleak they do find kindness, which gets them to the next phase and beyond.
The story switches between the narration of Pulga, the practical, de facto leader of the group, and Pequena, prone to dreams and flights of fancy to escape reality. This book is brutally honest and terrifying, considering the ages of the protagonists who are experiencing these horrors first hand. The fear and the desperation in this book is real, and I felt every single moment of it.
This book tugs at your heart strings. It’s the best I’ve read this year so far. Although it is YA, the audience is anyone who wants to know about the people whose lives we’ve devalued by separating their families and imprisoning them at our borders. It also gives a clear picture for the those who ask why they come, even if it means death.
Five strong stars–please read this book.