A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jenny Torres Sanchez's haunting and inspiring novel We Are Not from Here is the story of three teens from Guatemala who undertake a dangerous and potentially deadly journey to the U.S. border. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are literally fleeing for their lives. Pulga and Chico are the only witnesses to a brutal murder by a local drug gang. Pequeña has just given birth to a son, whose drug dealer father had "chosen" her for a sexual relationship and now, to be his wife. Telling no one (and leaving Pequeña's baby behind), the three begin a terrifying journey by bus, on foot, and clinging to the top of trains across Guatemala and Mexico to the U.S. border. Characters regularly use profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and "bitch). The story is filled with murders, bloody fights, and beatings. Many descriptions are very graphic, such as blood gushing between a man's fingers as he lays dying, and blood seeping into concrete and mixing with the leaking innards of bodies. The birth of Pequeña's son is described in some detail. A key character dies.
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What's the story?
When WE ARE NOT FROM HERE begins, teens Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are living in a Guatemalan town consumed by violence. Fifteen-year-old Pulga dreams of becoming a musician like his father and is already planning what he calls his "escape." The shy and still grief-stricken Chico had come to live with Pulga's family after the murder of his mother, who was shot down in the street when he was 11. Seventeen-year-old Pequeña is pregnant by a man she despises. Rey is a gang member who had "chosen" her and used barely disguised threats to force her into having sex with him. After Pulga and Chico witness the murder of a beloved local shopkeeper by Rey's gang, they know reporting what they saw will mean certain death. They decide to keep silent, but to their horror, they find that silence means they are now expected to become part of the gang. After Pequeña gives birth to a son, Rey informs her that she'll become his wife, something she vows will never happen. The three decide they have no choice but to flee, leaving their families and Pequeña's baby behind. But their journey is more terrifying than they could have imagined. Days without food, hiding from kidnappers, walking for untold miles, sometimes across the desert. And then there are the trains that will hopefully take them to the U.S. border. They have to run fast enough to grab onto the train and swing themselves on before climbing up to the train's roof. There they'll join men, women, and children all clinging on for their very lives.
Is it any good?
This harrowing and heartbreakingly realistic novel is inspired by current events: the thousands of women, children, and men from Central America seeking refuge in the United States. The storyline of We Are Not from Here offers an opportunity for parents and teens to discuss one of today's hot-button issues. Readers can contemplate what should happen to people like Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña who want to start new lives in the United States. Should all of them be admitted? Why should someone be turned away?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence experienced by the teens in We Are Not from Here. What do you think it would be like to live in a place where you never felt safe? Would you be more afraid to stay or to leave?
Has the media done a good job or a poor job explaining the reasons why so many people are willing to risk their lives to try to cross the border from Mexico into the United States?
Would you be physically able to undertake a journey like the one taken by Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña? Could you walk for miles, go days without food, or run fast enough to jump on a train?
- Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Philomel
- Publication date: May 19, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: September 8, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love stories of refugees and danger
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