4 out of 4 stars
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Torn Between Worlds by Nancy Blodgett Klein is a wonderful and realistic tale about a young Mexican girl’s journey as she enters the USA as an illegal immigrant, following in the footsteps of so many other Latin Americans trying to find a better life.
Isabel Martinez-Estrada is only nine years old when she travels across Mexico and into America with her father. Establishing herself in school and learning English is difficult for Isabel, but with the help of an understanding teacher, she starts a journal, not only to improve her English but to cope with missing her mother who she left behind in Mexico.
Isabel writes about her daily life and her school, friends, and family. When the terror attacks of September 11 occur she is drawn into the turmoil and a passion for news and politics is born. However, returning to Mexico to visit her mother leads her to experience tragedy on a more personal level, and her life changes forever.
Inspired by the author’s own experience with her students, this story is written in the first person in journal form. This gives a very raw and realistic edge to the traumatic parts of the story. Isabel’s writing style matures as she does from that of a twelve-year-old girl to a mature young woman. This way of writing makes her character both relatable and believable. The innocence of both the writing style and the character emphasizes the stark reality and danger of life in Mexico and the uncertainty of an illegal immigrant in America.
This book touches on some serious subjects that should be taken into account, as it is aimed at a young adult audience. The terror attacks on the World Trade Center are covered in some detail, as well as gun violence, sexual assault, and suicide. All of these topics are discussed clearly and calmly, however, they may act as triggers for those who have experienced these things.
Overall I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was well written and edited. I struggled to find any negative aspects to this book and I fully enjoyed the story. As I live in Guatemala, this book really hit close to home with me as I know several teenagers who have made the long journey to the USA illegally and alone, leaving family behind with no knowledge of when or if they will see them again. I also liked the fact that Spanish words were frequently and naturally used in the text.
The contrast between the life of a child in the USA compared to one in Mexico is not often found in books, especially for young adults, which makes this story special. So many teenagers and children make the same dangerous journey as Isabel, therefore, having a book that they can identify with makes it even more valuable.
I would recommend this book to young adults and adults who would like to understand more about what forces people to leave their homeland and brave multiple dangers in order to have a better life and how lucky the rest of us who are born in safer counties with more opportunities really are.
Torn Between Worlds
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