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The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina…
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The Book of Unknown Americans (2014)

by Cristina Henríquez

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9626314,376 (3.89)112
A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own. After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from PanamA fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.… (more)
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» See also 112 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I don't believe this book was marketed as a YA novel (and at least some of the blurbs are not from YA authors), but that is very much how it read to me. And my issues with the book are all based on its YA feel.

I expected this to be an immigration story. And it is, but mostly it's a teen romance. And while we learn the immigration stories of the two teens' families, we only get brief glimpses of the other residents' (about 3 pages)--a tidbit to tease us, and to show how these different people all ended up in Delaware. I wanted more. The reading level is also YA, and the story line is very linear, with just the occasional chapter giving the origin story of another resident. The only other teens we meet are William, Mayor's friend he has fought with over Maribel and her disability, and Garrett, the white-trash skater and sexual assaulter.

So, a perfectly fine book but given the low reading level, linear storyline, and teen romance, it was totally not my kind of thing. People looking for YA teen romance and immigration stories might love it.
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Maribel, 15, is recovering from a TBI. Her parents decide they need a better school for her, so spend a year to get a work visa and job near such a school in the US. They move into a small apartment building filled with other Spanish speakers, from a variety of countries and Puerto Rico. And there they meet the Toro family, with their son Mayor. Mayor becomes friends with Maribel, despite her disability, and they are falling in love. Meanwhile, their parents are struggling with jobs (this is post-9/11 as the economy suffered), Mayor is struggling with his father's expectations and his feelings toward Maribel, and Maribel is struggling with her memory, injury, and is often a little confused. ( )
  Dreesie | Oct 6, 2019 |
Right in the feels.

Beautifully written. ( )
  untitled841 | Jul 24, 2019 |
An interesting "stereotype" buster about a group of Latino immigrants living together in an apartment complex in Delaware. The story is compelling, the characters painfully real, and honest. Henriquez writing was simple yet it worked for the story. Out of all the characters, Mayor ended up being my favorite. ( )
  Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
I loved the multivocal representation of a diverse Latinx migrant community at the heart of the book. I liked the central love story considerably less and wonder about the ethics of its representation of one main, disabled character. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jun 25, 2019 |
Sad and tough to read in places, but very good. ( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Let us all be from somewhere.
/ Let us tell each other everything we can. - Bob Hicok, "A Primer"
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For my father, Pantaleón Henríquez III
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Back then, all we wanted was the simplest things: to eat good food, to sleep at night, to smile, to laugh, to be well.
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