DIAZ, Alexandra. The Only Road. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507.
Gr 5-8 –After the murder of their cousin/brother Miguel, Jaime and Ángela (ages 12 and 15) are given the “option” to join the powerful gang controlling their Guatemalan village. A refusal means certain death, so their families make the difficult decision to send the pair north, secretly gathering resources, paying smugglers, and identifying safe houses—all the while aware that their children might not survive the journey. The cousins depart hidden in the bed of a truck with small bags of food and cash concealed in their waistbands. After crossing the Mexican border, they take a bus further north, barely escaping border guards, and briefly stay at a safe church from which they are transported in a locked, airless freight train car. Throughout, the young people experience mercy and loss and observe violence and its results as they walk or ride atop a train, finally reaching a border town. After working to acquire additional cash necessary for a reputable coyote, they cross the Río Bravo and border wall and finally arrive at another refuge center. There are references to violence and sexual abuse, but these are handled in an age-appropriate manner while also reflecting the experiences of many immigrants. Jaime’s first person perspective enables readers to begin to comprehend the realities of undocumented youth immigration, its underlying causes, and the sacrifices and hardships made to reach safety in the United States. VERDICT An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.
This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.