I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 25th, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Roaring Brook Press
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A propulsive, compelling, and unsparing novel set in the grimly violent world of the human and drug trade on the US-Mexican border.
On the outskirts of Juarez, Arturo scrapes together a living working odd jobs and staying out of sight. But his friend Faustino is in trouble: he's stolen money from the narcos to smuggle his girlfriend and her baby into the US, and needs Arturo's help to get it back. To help his friend, Arturo must face the remorseless world of drug and human traffickers that surrounds him, and contend with a murky past.
Hovering over his story is the unsparing divinity Santa Muerte, Saint Death--and the relentless economic and social inequalities that haunt the border between Mexico and its rich northern neighbor. Crafted with poetry and cinematic pace and narrated with cold fury, Saint Death is a provocative tour de force from three-time Printz Award honoree Marcus Sedgwick.
Saint Death is one of those books you are going to want to hurl across the room, not because you hate it but because its too painful. Or you could do what Joey does and put scary books in the freezer for another day. The release of the book is so timely and I hope that it will reach the hands of many because it is such an important book. Right now, the conversation surrounding immigration is one of the most politically charged ones. People feel like immigrants are ruining their lives and that the answer is to throw up metaphorical and literal walls between countries. To this I respond with:
I am going slightly off topic and that’s fine because Saint Death is a book that is going to start conversations (and it actually does go into the idea of first world countries creating immigrants.) In fact, it’s probably going to win some awards and that’s cool because teens need to be having these conversations just as much as any other demographic. They themselves or people they know are going to be impacted by the changes happening in the world right now.
Anyway, Saint Death is a book about immigration. It is set in Mexico and tells the story of Arturo, who has agreed to help his friend earn money he stole to pay for someone to help his family cross the border back (I AM SORRY ABOUT THAT LONG SENTENCE.) What follows is a complicated journey into human minds and egos but also the world. The world, as we know (or if you don’t know, SPOILER ALERT), is a terrible place and the book explores that to a large extent. It explores the complicated relationships between Mexico and its much richer, northern neighbor. We get to see how the American capitalism dream has ruined lives in Mexico and we get to see how the American government has had a hand in ruining lives as well. Sedgwick has clearly put a lot of research into this novel which I am glad for because this is a story that needs to be told and while its unfortunate we cannot have more #ownvoices stories doing it, I am glad that Sedgwick treats the subject with respect.
I also love that he incorporated how he incorporated Spanish into the book. Its done so seamlessly and beautifully. There are no italicized bits that make the Spanish stand apart from the English. The two languages in the novel blend together to create something beautiful and magical.
Sedgwick’s incorporation of religion within the novel is important but also done really well. I never felt like I was being preached at and I loved that he simultaneously respected these religious beliefs while also keeping in mind the parts of his audience who might not share those same beliefs.
Sedgwick is a master of this craft and his words bounce off the pages of this book. Saint Death is a thought-provoking book and one I hope everyone will take the time to read. If you also want to read an #ownvoices immigration story, The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu would be a good place to start.
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