The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border

Farrar. Sept. 2019. 160p. glossary. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374305734.
Gr 7 Up–In Villalobos’s author’s note, readers learn that all of the stories in this collection were inspired by 10 immigrant minors from Los Angeles and New York in 2016. And while there are fictional techniques employed and names have been changed to protect anonymity, they are true to the experiences of the Central American teens who crossed the border into the United States. Set off with graffiti-style title pages, each short story highlights the current climate of immigration from hopeful to tragic and showcases a range of experiences including financial payout for transportation, running away from home, and kidnapping. The emotional toll is felt deeply, no matter the bleak circumstances, with narrators recounting experiences of being locked in a shipping container or a jail cell. The weakness of this collection is that the varied fictional techniques do not tie the stories together and infrequently fit the storytelling itself. For example, one story uses chapter headings while another uses dates; another uses hyphens to move the story forward paragraph by paragraph.
VERDICT Ultimately, this collection is an additional purchase because of the quality of the writing, not because of the significance of the topic and stories that lie within. Without consistency, the stories feel scattered with the only binding element being the teens’ geographic location.

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