This book made me thirsty; I had to keep an icy glass of water next to me while reading. The Border chronicles four teens ages 15-17 running for their lives and trying to cross a vast desert on-foot with insufficient water. The Border is perfect for high school book discussion groups, especially considering the DACA-repeal and wall-building discussions happening in the USA right now…
AUTHOR: Steve Schafer
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
PUBLICATION DATE: September 5, 2017
SOURCE: public library OverDrive
GENRE: realistic fiction, survival
SETTING: Mexico and extreme southern USA, present day
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS
SUMMARY: Pato, Gladys, Arbo, and Marcos are the only survivors of a gang-related shooting at a quinceañera. The gang is still after them, so the four head toward the US-Mexico border in hopes of escaping into the USA.
REVIEW: Heartbreaking, exciting, and suspenseful. The four main characters are realistic, each having personality and back-story. Tough-boy Marcos was my favorite character–so much heart and grit in that one. The friendship between Arbo and Pato is also well-drawn and believable. Gladys has the least-interesting personality. Pato has a crush on her and seems to put her on a pedestal, but to be honest, she’s just kind of there. Nothing about her character really sparkles.
Despite the seriousness of the premise (entire family wiped out by gun violence, constant danger, survival), there are some funny moments and sweet scenes. The story is pretty intense, but there is quiet thoughtfulness as well.
The entire book is from Pato’s point of view. I liked Pato–he’s pensive and smart–but I wish the story were told in the four characters’ alternating voices instead. I would love to get into Marcos’s head, and I think giving Gladys a voice would have helped me care more about her character.
Considering all the talk of DACA-repeal and building walls in the USA right now, The Border would be perfect for a high school reading group discussion. I’m a big fan of allowing students to read what they want to from a thematic list (instead of whole-class novels), and I would definitely include The Border on such a list. If your high school English class reads from themed lists, The Border could easily fit lists about gangs, gun violence, immigration, and survival.
I booktalked The Border with a class of sixth graders this week (part of my “Mrs. Collazo is currently reading” feature at the beginning of every class’s library time), and two students asked me to put it on hold for them when it comes in. Some will say this is too violent for sixth graders, but I think if they can handle TV gun violence, they can handle this. The only profanity in the book is in Spanish, and there is no sexual stuff beyond kissing and a brief boob-flash that is more funny than sexual.
About the front cover–Does anyone know what the pink tuft of fuzz is on that barbed-wire fence? I don’t remember anything pink except maybe the quinceañera dress? Was that pink? Why would that be on the fence? It would be better if it were a piece of blue jeans…
THEMES: gun violence, gangs, survival, extreme thirst, hope
THE BOTTOM LINE: Easy to booktalk and highlights the difficulties of crossing the US-Mexico border. A must for secondary libraries.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order.
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: mild; Spanish profanity
- Sexuality: mild; kissing, a boob-flash that isn’t sexual
- Violence: high; shooting-up a party, gang violence, gun violence, dead bodies (described with detail)
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; drugs are mentioned, one character carries marijuana as a form of currency