Wednesday June 30, 2010
by Sofia Quintero
April 13, 2010
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Sofia Quintero makes a stunning debut writing for young adults with this gritty, complex, and real exploration of the life of an urban teen whose attempt to leave one world behind for a better one could cost him everything.
Review: Efrain's Secret is an edgy novel about a young Puerto Rican boy from the Bronx trying to beat the odds and make it to an Ivy League school. This modern day story follows Efrain Rodriguez in his quest to apply to numerous colleges despite having a good-for-nothing father who’s abandoned his family forcing his to mom work an insane amount of hours just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Efrain is a Senior who lives in a complex urban world and longs for a normal life, longs for good things to happen to him because he is doing all the right things, not pushing or using drugs, he is focused on getting an education, maintaining his grades, and being a respectable young man.
The odds are against Efrain, even his guidance counselor discourages him from chasing his dream. His dad ran off with another woman, but still lives in the neighborhood, his mother loves and supports him, his friends support him, his teachers support him, but the cost of going away to college is astronomical.
Efrain applies for financial aid, plans to retake the SATs to get a number closer to 2100, keep his grades up, be valedictorian and have glowing letters of recommendations from teachers, all in an attempt to look more impressive to the colleges and ensure an entrance to one of the prestigious schools. Spinning his wheels and seeing no other option Efrain calls on a childhood friend to set him up with a job peddling drugs. Honor student by day, drug pusher by night. He lies to family and friends and is ashamed of what he is doing, but tries to argue away his feelings as a means to an end, saving lots of money for college.
As could be anticipated, there are street wars that Efrain and his friend Nester are caught up in. This has dramatic results in the end, and Efrain hurts and disappoints his family and friends. I enjoyed this realistic novel and really enjoyed how the chapters all started with an SAT word and definition pertaining to the chapter. A well written and gritty story that shows all our choices have consequences one way or another. Swearing (not overdone but realistic to the characters) makes this read more appropriate for older middle level students. Overall an entertainingly believable story that will take you through life in the rural Bronx, the many trials and tribulations facing a young Puerto Rican boy and all that he does to try to come out on top.