The Whole Sky Full of Stars
René Saldaña Jr.

Wendy Lamb Books
Hardcover/131 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-90078
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“The author focuses on themes of trust, honesty, relationships with parents and accepting consequences.”

René Saldaña Jr. eloquently and vividly weaves emotional drama into his young adult novel, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, as he details the violation of trust between two teenage boys, friends since grade school. Since his father’s death, Barry’s mother has been struggling to pay bills. Alby, from a wealthier family, owes a gambling debt to local school thugs and is feeling the pressure.

Barry’s father, who once coached a star Mexican fighter, had Olympic dreams for his son and would not have approved of a street “brawl” for money but times have changed. Alby offers to become Barry’s manager in the “Man O’ Mighty” boxing competition. Strong and solid, Barry swiftly moves up the competitive ladder. Alby, who hasn’t told Barry the championship purse is only $100, secretly sets up his own gambling operation on the side to raise money to pay off his debts.

The author focuses on themes of trust, honesty, relationships with parents, and accepting consequences. When Barry learns his friend has lied to him, he refuses to accept any of Alby’s gambling money and instead sells the Ford Galaxie that he and his father had worked on for years. Barry tells his mother “It’s a beaut—Pop’s and my baby—but he’d sell it for a dime if it would get us out of a jam.” After they learn how their son exploited his best friend, Alby’s parents help their son restore the friendship.

The fact that Barry and Alby are Latinos from Texas is not the central focus in this novel; rather, the emphasis is on conflicts common among all youths regardless of cultural or social background. Saldaña Jr.’s rich dialogue and stirring description of the boxing matches makes this an appealing and pleasurable novel to read.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla