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". . . suspense and conflict may not unfold quickly enough . . ."
As a seasoned border-crosser myself, I thought it unlikely that a sixteen-year-old, germ-phobic, insecure blonde girl from Tucson would board a second-class bus and safely walk alone across the bridge from Mexico into unstable Guatemala to rescue her boyfriend. But Sophie, the main character in Laura Resau’s second youth book, Red Glass, does exactly that. Sophie’s account is believable because Resau, an anthropologist, based the story on her own experiences crossing over “creepy borders” while she lived in Mexico and Central America, as well as upon true stories she heard from her students.
This tale focuses on Sophie’s self-discovery as she takes an arduous journey with four refugees who each survived extreme hardships. Her fellow travelers are her Great-Aunt Dika, a Bosnian refugee, who can see “a distant world of light and joy” in a piece of red glass, the remains from her bombed-out home. Mr. Lorenzo, Dika’s boyfriend, was tortured by the Guatemalan army. Ángel, Lorenzo’s son, hid inside a tree as a child while the army destroyed his village. It was also the last time he saw his mother, who left him to bury her jewels in the forest.
The fourth refugee is Pablo, a seven-year-old boy found barely alive in the Arizona desert next to his parents who perished in the hot sun. Officials sent orphaned Pablo as a foster child to Sophie’s family. They subsequently decided to adopt him, but first, they want to find his extended family and gain their permission. Dika offers a plan: “We drive to Mexico together. Me, Mr. Lorenzo, his son, Sophie, Pablo. We stay in Pablo’s village for one week. They go to Guatemala, and they find the jewels.”
As they travel and spend time with Pablo’s family in a poor village, Sophie discovers her own strength. She demonstrates this when she sets off to rescue her new love Ángel and his father. The mystery surrounding the jewels and Pablo’s decision about returning to the United States possesses an interesting, heartfelt twist. However, the suspense and conflict may not unfold quickly enough for today’s younger reader with a short attention span.
Resau, who currently teaches English as a Second Language, notes on in her web page that she specifically wrote about immigration in the novel because she wants “empathy and compassion” to become a guide for young people.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla