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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Red Glass* by Laura Resau- young adult book review

Also by Laura Resau:

Star in the Forest

The Indigo Notebook
Red Glass
by Laura Resau
Ages 12+ 288 pages Delacorte September 2007 Hardcover    

Picture in your mind’s eye, if you can, what it would be like to be dying of hunger and thirst, trying to cross a desert to reach the Promised Land of your hopes and dreams: the United States. This is the hope and dream still of many immigrants who will do anything in their power to cross the border into the U.S. from Mexico, Central America and South America. In Red Glass by Laura Resau, who wrote the bestselling children’s book What the Moon Saw, Sophie, perpetually afraid of germs, car wrecks, cancer, and becoming an orphan herself - among other fears - finds herself having to confront her own fears and overcome them. Pablo, a six-year-old Mexican boy, the only surviving member of his family after his mother and father die of thirst trying to make a better life for themselves in America, stays at their house while he recovers from dehydration. Sophie’s family considers adopting him, but they want to contact the boy’s relatives first and give him and them a choice in the matter. Heavily influenced by the book the The Little Prince, Sophie refers to Pablo as Principito, which translates as “the Little Prince.”

Sophie’s family is made memorable by Laura Resau’s well-wrought use of descriptive language. Her mother is married to a Mexican American named Juan, who is the only father she has known since her birth father, who was involved with dealing drugs, left her mother and her soon after she was born, and bestowing on Sophie perhaps her biggest fear, rejection. She was born premature, and she believes maybe one reason her father left was that she was too wrinkled and ugly. Sophie feels often like “an amoeba swimming around aimlessly.” It takes another family member who lives with them, her aunt Dika, a refugee from the war in Serbia, and Pablo to help her out of her shell and to grow as a human being.

The “red glass” of the book’s title comes from two sources: Sophie’s aunt Dika’s experiences in a POW camp in Serbia is the first. Dika’s house was bombed during the war, and she sought solace and comfort in anything that would help remind her of how her life used to be. Sophie remembers when her aunt told her about why she had the shard of red glass she always kept with her and traveled with:

All Dika had said about the camp that she ate raw onions for three straight months, and that her only possession was a small shard of red glass that she’d salvaged from her bombed-out house. At the camp, she kept it hidden in a pocket, and planned on one day piercing the heart of a guard. She never did, as far as I know.
The second source is related by a teenage boy from Guatemala, Angel, whom Sophie meets through her aunt Dika. Women and the roles they have in guiding Sophie’s and Angel’s lives and in saving Angel’s life three times are vital to the movement of the plot of Red Glass. Dika takes Sophie to a nearby apartment complex that has a pool, supposedly so Sophie can learn to swim. Dika falls in love with the maintenance man in charge of cleaning the pool, Mr. Lorenzo. His son is Angel, a boy Sophie vaguely recalls as having been in a woodworking class she once took. Mr. Lorenzo and Angel want to go to Guatemala to prove one way or another whether Angel’s mother is dead or alive, and to find the red jewels she buried.

Red Glass is beautifully written and quite emotionally moving in many places. When Sophie, Dika, Angel, Mr. Lorenzo, and Pablo travel across the border to Mexico, then when Sophie goes to Guatemala to take money and identification to Mr. Lorenzo and Angel after they get beaten up and robbed, the descriptions and details ring true. The author lived in the Miztec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, for two years as an English teacher and anthropologist, so she writes from a background of knowing the language, the people, their folklore, and the geography of Mexico and Guatemala.

The plight of immigrants in the United States is something we hear about on a daily basis on TV and read about in the newspapers, so there’s an immediacy and freshness to Red Glass that’s lacking in many books for children and teens. The various plot lines are skillfully woven as well, and you’ll care about the lives of each of the main characters. What will Pablo decide - to stay with his Mexican relatives, or to live with Sophie and her family? Will Mr. Lorenzo and Angel find the wife and mother alive or not, and will they discover her red jewels? Will Sophie and Angel fall in love, and will Dika and Mr. Lorenzo’s relationship progress further? Red Glass is highly recommended to readers of all ages.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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