Thursday, July 9, 2015

la linea by Ann Jaramillo

Miguel's parents left him and his little sister in Mexico while they went to California to start a new life.  That was nine years ago.  Miguel is now 15, and finally, his father has sent for him.  Miguel will make the dangerous journey north to the border.  It would have been hard enough alone, but when Miguel's sister Elena steals away after him, it might be impossible.  Without enough money for two, they'll have to take even more risks in the hopes of reaching la linea.

This is such a slim little book, but so powerful.  Jaramillo captured the fear, the danger, the determination, and the hopelessness of the kids who try to cross the border.  Some to rejoin families, but some are completely alone.

Spoilers ahead.

When Miguel leaves, he feels confident in the plan his father has arranged.  He's been set up with money for bus tickets and a coyote that will get him across the desert safely to the border.  But then there's Elena.  She causes all his perfect plans to go awry. The two narrowly escape arrest on the first bus they take, and then, sleeping out on the streets, they are robbed.  With no chance of taking a bus to a border town, the children take a huge risk.  They hop the mata gente (people killer).  These are fright trains traveling toward the border.  Children risk jumping onto the trains while they are still in motion, and then cling to the top for days at a time.  Only the poorest and most desperate risk it. 

Even if they make it to a border town, the danger isn't over.  They must cross the desert.  Rattlesnakes, militias, becoming lost in the blowing sand, are only some of the final dangers Miguel and Elena must go through.

Miguel is at first furious at Elena for ruining everything for him, and Elena is defiant.  However, the two learn to work together and rely on each other.  Miguel learns to listen to Elena's opinions and take them into consideration.  Without each other for support, the journey might have been impossible.

Miguel and Elena's journey is harrowing and heartbreaking.  So many people, fleeing from war, poverty, starvation, willing to risk anything to cross the boarder.  An important book to read.

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