Saturday, September 19, 2009
I have just turned the last page in Muchacho by Louanne Johnson and I loved it. Eddie is a character I am going to be thinking about for a very long time. Johnson sent me this book herself and I fear that no review I write will be able to really do this book justice.
Eddie Corazon is a teenager growing up in New Mexico. At first glance he seems like a tough guy - he is in trouble at school and hangs out with a rough crowd, including his cousins who are involved in some illegal deals. He is also a student at an alternative high school where he attends, but doesn't put a lot of effort into his academics. However, he has promised his mother he will graduate from high school and even agrees to take dancing lessons to get one of the credits he needs. While at dance class he meets Lupe, one of the best things that has ever happened to him. Lupe is smart and driven and only at the alternative school because she had been targeted by a bully at her old high school and often beaten up. With Lupe in his life Eddie tries to turn things around for himself. While he appears to lack drive or ambition, he has a lot going on under the surface that others can't see. He wrestles with who he is and where he is going with his life. He knows that people see him and anyone who looks like him as Mexican and that even though his family is American and has been in the country for over three hundred years, his ethnicity alone may cause people to treat him differently. Eddie is also a reader. This isn't something tough guys talk about with each other, but each book Eddie reads impacts him in some way. Eventually Eddie becomes a writer, focusing on poetry. When Eddie is sent to live with his uncle he is able to have a mentor who he connects with and who is a positive influence on him.
This book was well written from beginning to end. I enjoyed every single word, especially finding Eddie's poetry to be beautiful. Ms. Beecher, Eddie's teacher is also such a likeable and influential character. As I started reading, the teacher from Dangerous Minds is who I envisioned, and then laughed to myself as I realized that Louanne Johnson wrote the book Dangerous Minds (which I read fifteen years ago now after being totally taken by the movie). This book should take a place in high school literature classes, and is one that I hope is widely recommended to both high schoolers and adults.