Written for the juvenile/teen market, Feels Like Home resonates, “hitting home” on many different matters and sparking self-recognition in the reader. Texas author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo crafts this tale of family, of friendship, and Texas values in an authentic way as seen through the eyes of one whose personal knowledge is intimately vested in such an environment. For added measure, Charlton-Trujillo calls upon the characters in S.E. Hinton’s popular teen novel
The Outsiders to help readers position her lead characters and their cravings for the idealized all-American family. Most middle to high school students in our area of the country can readily identify with Darry, Johnny, Ponyboy, the Socs and Greasers, etc. Nice choice.
Seventeen-year-old Michelle “Mickey” Owens tells the story from her first-person point of view. Her mother abandoned her and her older brother when she was only seven and he just twelve to be raised by an alcoholic father, alone. In her hometown of Three Rivers, Texas—south of San Antonio, west of Houston, a bit south of Corpus Christi and the Texas/Mexico border—she finds it difficult to find a place that “feels like home.”
Now her father has died in an auto accident; Mickey attends his funeral supported by her best friend, Christina, and “Uncle Jack” - the man who has been more father to her than the one they’re laying to rest. And, for the first time in six years, her brother, Danny, returns to Three Rivers.
Three Rivers, Texas… Population 4,043, where the football heroes and their “posse” are ”white wealthy rednecks who liked to raise hell twice on Sunday and made sure you never forgot your place on or off the field.” Danny and best friend Roland Gonzalez had been the local heroes and stars of their 1998 high school football team. Then, while celebrating the team’s anticipated championship title, Roland dies in a mysterious and fiery freak accident. Danny mysteriously flees right after his graduation, leaving little sister Michelle mysteriously unable to recall the details of that night, although she was the only one present other than the two friends.
In any case, the town has already made up its mind about what happened and who was responsible for it:
”The evil gringo that kept Three Rivers from the fame of a Mexican quarterback in the NFL.”
As far as they were concerned, Danny Owens was crazy and the town was better off without him.
Because Feels Like Home was written for the teen market, I had to struggle to remain objective while reading this one. e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s target audience for her second novel is the same one that I teach. My critique, rating, and recommendation are influenced by that fact. The synopsis of the story
given here relates many of the components of this story that work. Here, I’ll share my concerns regarding this Texas tale, in brief.
Admittedly, I live in northeast Texas, not on the southern border where it appears the town of Three Rivers lies. Nonetheless, Texans and Texas values are pretty consistent, if on a lesser or greater scale in correlation to a city’s size and economy, to a certain degree. Therefore, the shallow characters of one race (the wealthy whites) as compared to the more stable or down-to-earth personas of another (the wealthy Mexicans) stand out noticeably. Language is another point of contention for me. Copious use of ethnical epitaphs like gringa, gringo, and, most derogatory,
"…I don’t wanna be like her and marry the first cabron with a coolio car and a greasy smile." Additionally, profanity puts in a veiled appearance (pendejos) disguised by a translucent Spanish cloak. In my high school, perhaps 55 percent of the student body (or more) would recognize it without hesitating.
Feels Like Home gets 3 out of 5 stars from me with an alert for stereotyping and language.