Beast Rider

JOHNSTON, Tony & . 192p. Abrams/Amulet. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419733635.
Gr 4–7—The train that passes near Manuel's family farm in Mexico is called The Beast, and Beast Riders are those who jump onto this moving train headed toward the U.S. Manuel has a loving family, but life on the farm is difficult, and he longs to be reunited with his older brother who reached Los Angeles four years earlier. He slips away from home one night at the age of 12 and becomes a Beast Rider himself. Although Manuel knows the ride will be challenging, he is not prepared for the cunning tactics of thieves and gangs; he is beset by violence multiple times, and his severe injuries prolong his journey. With the help of kind strangers and a group of smugglers hired by his brother, Manuel finally arrives in Los Angeles at the age of 15. Their reunion is joyful, but Manuel struggles to become accustomed to life as an undocumented immigrant in a large city and must decide whether this new life is really what he wants. This story feels personal and real; it does not romanticize or try to fully tackle the complex issue of immigration. Manuel narrates in a frank, unflinching manner, using a well-crafted combination of short, abrupt thoughts and longer descriptive sentences. Spanish words and phrases are woven expertly throughout the narrative. Back matter includes a glossary of terms and their English counterparts, as well as an authors' note giving context about real-life Beast Riders.
VERDICT Told directly and effectively, this story gives readers an opportunity to be present for one young man's harrowing journey as an immigrant to the U.S.

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