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He Forgot to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire…
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He Forgot to Say Goodbye

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a great representation of the different challenges that life throws at teenagers each and every day. Benjamin Alire Saenz shows that it doesn't matter where you come from or how much money you have. It only matters that you do what you know is best and keep your head held high. He Forgot to Say Goodbye is told from the voice of two very different characters. Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove are both seniors in high school who are trying to determine who they are. Ramirolives with his mother and younger brother, Tito, in the working-class barrio of El Paso. He attends the local high school and has a job at Whataburger to help support his family. On the other hand, Jake Upthegrove lives on the rich West Side of El Paso, Texas. He lives with his mother and stepfather, David. Having grown up with his materialistic mother, Jake knows that there is more to life than money. Although it may seem as if Jake and Ramiro have nothing in common, they share one thing. Neither of them have ever met their fathers. He Forgot to Say Goodbye shows exactly how it feels to grow up without knowing where half of you comes from. I would recommend this book to any young adult that is looking for anovel to change the way they see life. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone that is offended by racial comments or profanity, because the characters in the book use some offensive language at times. I believe that Benjamin Alire Saenz's great use of characterization and conflict makes He Forgot to Say Goodbye a very inspirational, life-changing novel. ( )
  ahsreads | Feb 18, 2011 |
The characters really pull you into the book. Probably the part at the end of Jake’s birthday party was most compelling. I actually thought it would be kind of boring, but I was wrong. The characters are so real and believable. It’s nice to see how they change as the story progresses. AHS/EK

I would tell them that it was a very interesting read and I liked it a lot. The most compelling aspect of the book was how the two boys came together when Tito was sick. I thought it was a very good read. I thought it was a little confusing in the beginning because the chapters didn’t have regular titles, but once I started to understand who was who it was fine. AHS/CC
  edspicer | May 19, 2010 |
"He forgot to say goodbye" describes the pain felt by two teens from radically different backgrounds--Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove, both of whose families were abandoned by their fathers when they were young. Although Jake lives in a large house and attends a prestigious magnet school, his life is profoundly unhappy, due in large part to his vacuous mother and philandering stepfather's superficial, conservative lifestyle. Ramiro, although poor, is encouraged and nurtured by both his loving mother and his intelligent and opinionated friend Alejandra. Their unlikely friendship brings much needed support to Jake and expands Ramiro's world beyond the borders of the barrio. Banjamin Alire Saenz provides realistic dialogue (alot of cursing) and sharp insight. For example, on page 234, Jake describes the encounter between his magazine-perfect mother (referred to as Sally), and his Gothic friend Katie:

"Katie smiled. She managed to kiss my mother's cheek. I know that took a lot. People like Katie and people like Sally just didn't fit. Different countries. I mean, these people did not like to cross into each other's borders--legally or illegally. They just didn't give certain people visas to enter." ( )
  kivarson | Nov 14, 2009 |
Reviewed by hoopsielv for TeensReadToo.com

This a novel about two young men. They seem to be opposites in many ways, yet they have in common the fact that they have never known their fathers.

Jake has had a very privileged upbringing. He really couldn't ask for more. Well, except for a father. His mom is remarried and her job is to make sure that she knows everything that's going on with Jake. It's to the point where it drives him crazy and they are constantly battling each other.

Ramiro has been poor all of his life. His mom has had to work hard as a single mother. He works, too, to help support their family. His little brother, Tito, is falling into a dangerous lifestyle. It's up to Ramiro to save him.

Though the boys have completely different lives, their paths do cross.

Can they get past their differences to find a common ground so they can help each other?

This novel revolves around the impact that an absent father can have on the life of a teenage boy. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 11, 2009 |
Richie's Picks: HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 2008, ISBN: 1-4169-4963-1

Notes from my reading, Day One:

"I didn't stop there. Of course I didn't. I just felt I had to add that I probably had a better idea of the serious philosophy of anarchy than a man like him whose addiction to order seriously undermined his feeble attempts at engaging his imagination.
"He returned my remark by reminding me that he remained unimpressed with my shallow intellectual demeanor and that nothing could disguise my obstinate, disrespectful, and undisciplined attitude. He said being a smart aleck didn't actually make me smart. And then he said it again: 'Despite your extensive, if aggressive vocabulary, you're nothing but an angry, disrespectful young man who needs a little discipline.' You see, the thing with adults is that respect is just a word they use to guilt us nonadults into doing what they want us to do. But did Mr. Alexis leave it at that? Of course not. He reminded me and Tom and John that it was a privilege to attend a pre-med magnet school and if we weren't very careful, well, we just might be sent back to a normal school. That's how he put it. A normal school. That guy, he destroys me. Where in the hell was he going to find a normal school? How can schools be normal when they're run by adults like him."

To tell you the truth, reading HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE has so far been really slow going for me. But that is only because Ben Saenz is a poet, and while there is theoretically not a line of verse in the whole book, reading it is sure causing me to treat it as if it were an exceptional volume of YA poetry. This is one of those books that I need to read aloud and then read aloud again so that I can savor the words and expressions -- English and Spanish -- of entire amazing passages.

Notes from my reading, Day Two:

I would really prefer to have an audience so that I could actually be sharing these words and expressions and entire amazing passages but, instead, I have been sitting up in my room alone, reading aloud and loudly to myself, and totally cracking up every couple of pages, particularly with the Jake monologues. Yes, there are a whole slew of passages here which are so hysterical that I am repeatedly delaying any forward motion by re-reading and re-re-reading two- and three-page passages aloud in order to cause myself to laugh all over again. (By now the family dog must think I'm in serious need of a mental health professional.) In fact, I was inspired to write the Day One notes yesterday upon reaching page 39; now -- hours of reading later -- I've just finished re-reading page 52. And I'm still sitting here cracking up.

Notes from my reading, Day Three:

HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE is a story about what it is to become a man. It is the tale of two teenage guys in El Paso, Texas who know each other on a very casual basis. What they don't yet know they have in common is that neither really knows more about his own respective father than what he has gotten from his mom and -- in Ramiro's case -- his mom's sister.

Ramiro Lopez lives with his thirty-something, single mother, who works for a physician, and his younger brother Tito (an angry, violent, drug-abusing teenager with deadened eyes who is big trouble). Ramiro attends Jefferson High School (La Jeff).

Jake Upthegrove, the self-described teen anarchist (whose attitudes and observations about adults have kept me in stitches for days) lives with his mother -- whose "work" is shopping --and his wealthy-attorney-stepfather in a home that is staffed by a full-time Mexican American maid and a part time gardener. Jake attends the pre-med magnet high school that adjoins La Jeff.

"Put it this way: The good, intelligent pre-med magnet school students 'attend their classes in a separate facility.' So we don't even have 'contact.' That's the word they use too. 'Contact.' Like they've landed on the moon. I mean, crap, what's wrong with contact? What are we gonna do to those kids, kill them? Touch them? Infect them with Mexican ways of thinking? Make them ride burros? Take their English and put it between two pieces of corn tortillas until it sounds Spanish? What? It really makes me mad. So we're all separate. I mean, the only person I know from the pre-med magnet school is this guy named Jake. We both sort of hang out in the same place on the school grounds. We don't say much -- we just sort of nod at each other. Sometimes we exchange a few words. That's it. He likes to smoke. Sometimes we talk a little bit. Not a lot. I mean, I'm not sure what to say to the guy. The thing is, I don't think either one of us fits in at school. It's a place we go to because we have to.
"School is like this speed bump, and I think we're both in a hurry to move on down the road. So we both sort of hide out just off the school grounds, which is illegal. Well. not exactly illegal, but against the rules. Rules, see, they keep us in line. In line is better than chaos, I suppose. Or maybe not. Who knows?"

I'm not going to blog each succeeding day in the week that it took me to finish reading the book with all of the u-turns I made along the way. But I have, in fact, now spent a lot of quality time with Ramiro and Jake and can say that this one is right up there with my all-time favorite YAs.

From reading HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE, it is clear that becoming a man has much to do with relationships. There are relationships here between adolescent guys and other guys, with girls as friends, with girls as girlfriends, with teachers, with siblings, with neighbors, with hired help, with mothers and with themselves.

HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE is not a book that is going to be able to be taught in middle school because of the language contained in it, but it will surely appeal to many students heading into high school and this is unquestionably a book good enough to be added to a high school English curriculum.

Ben Saenz is also the author of SAMMY AND JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD, which was up at the top of my Best of 2004 list. It is not at all going out on a limb to predict that a year from now HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE will be sitting up there on my Best of 2008 list.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
http://www.myspace.com/richiespicks ( )
  richiespicks | May 21, 2009 |
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Two teenaged boys with very different lives find that they share a common bond--fathers they have never met who left when they were small boys--and in spite of their differences, they become close when they each need someone who understands.

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