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Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel is the true story of two boys from Laredo, Texas, who became assassins for a powerful and vicious gang of drug smugglers and the Mexican-American police detective determined to catch them. This is a book for very mature readers, as the violence is constant, brutal, and committed by characters feeling no remorse for their actions. People are shot, stabbed, kidnapped, tortured, even fed alive to tigers. Women and children are beaten and sometimes killed. Author Dan Slater, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, offers a serious and extremely detailed account of the political, economic, and social complexities of the region that may overwhelm many readers.
What's the story?
WOLF BOYS puts a tragic human face on the havoc wrecked by the drug wars in Mexico and Laredo, Texas. Gabriel Cardona is a bright, popular high school athlete who goes from stealing cars to becoming a commandante and assassin in Los Zetas, a notorious drug cartel. Burt Reta is recruited for Los Zetas at age 12 or 13 and by 17 is known as a "mythic killer." Both come of age in a Laredo that is poor and increasingly the epicenter of the drug smuggling between Mexico and the United States. Author Dan Slater offers a chilling picture of a generation of young men along the border who find their identity in being feared and their reward in expensive cars and unimaginable amounts of cartel cash. While Gabriel is conflicted about the life he's chosen, Burt is not, killing simply because it likes it. Slater follows the boys from their earliest days with the cartel to their arrest and eventual convictions for murder.
Is it any good?
A violent, harrowing, and shocking true story that reads like a thriller and powerfully brings home the catastrophic cost of a losing war on drugs. Wolf Boys offers a vivid and sobering look at life for young men living in poverty along the Texas-Mexico border. Young men who see no part for themselves in the American Dream and are hard-pressed to resist the lure of money and power offered by working for the cartels.
While author Dan Slater has done a masterful job of research, the dozens of characters and amount of detail involved in the telling of the story could be a challenge for teens not accustomed to reading serious adult nonfiction. Parents may want to vet it first before passing it onto a teen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Wolf Boys. Is it so extreme and constant that it's hard to continue reading? Or is it necessary in a nonfiction account where the author has to lay out the facts of the case?
Gabriel was a big fan of Mortal Kombat. What impact do you think violent video games like that have on teens who may feel isolated or believe that life is stacked against them?
How do you think the killers' drug use affected their decisions and actions?
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