I don’t know what it is, that special something that takes a book from being good and enjoyable and moves it to a place where it truly touches you. This book is truly touching! I’ll admit I struggled to get into the first part of this book because it’s dealing with some troublesome issues, but once I did, once I connected to Alex’s voice I was sold. This book was moving and special and a story of hope found in the unlikeliest of places.
Author: Sara Alva
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central L.A. is far from perfect, but it’s his life, and he knows how to live it. He knows what role to play and what things to keep to himself. He’s got it all under control, until one lousy pair of shoes kicks him out of his world and lands him in a foster care group home.
Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.
It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.
Alejandro “Alex” grew up in South Central LA in one of the roughest parts of Los Angeles. So far he’s managed to stay out of the gangs, but that may not last much longer. He walks the tough walk and as far as he’s concerned he’s got it all under control. He knows his role to play and while it may not appeal that greatly he can even play the lothario with the ladies. At fifteen he’s pretty sure he can manage the world including the lousy man living with his mother. Sure he’s gotten the rough end of that straw a few times, but whatever. At least he knows the rules. Everything’s under control until one simple pair of new shoes changes everything. Thrown into foster care and with a whole new set of rules and expectations Alex is lost in a sea of strangers and drowning under the expectations he doesn’t understand.
So why was this book so difficult for me to get into, probably because Alex’s voice is so authentic and real. He really is a troubled teen who has had to deal with more things in life than one should at that age. His machismo and fronting is one hundred percent apropos of a kid raised in the scenario he has been. He’s commendable for trying to stay out of the gangs despite how rough his home life is. Like any child he wants validation but he hasn’t succumbed to the temptation of a life of crime fully yet even if he was on that road. The tough guy attitude covers up a whole host of insecurities underneath and I can so easily see him as one of those foster kids that you hear about struggling within the system, bounced from home to home because they keep everyone at a distance lashing out before you can get close enough to hurt them.
I truly think Alex would have absolutely become that kid, the one for which there is no real hope, who ends up bouncing or in juvie if it wasn’t for Seb. Sebastian was the port in the storm Alex needed to find his way through his own tangled mess of thoughts and feelings. Seb gave Alex something to fight for.
Sebastian has been mute his entire life and no one knows much about him. Everyone assumes he’s retarded because he doesn’t speak. It’s a misnomer that Seb is more than happy to let everyone assume. They require nothing of him then and he can live his life in piece. But something about Alex sparks that little bit of fire remaining in Seb and it draws him back to life and brings the animation back to his face and the soul out of hiding for the horrible things that happened to him as a child.
I loved the slow developing relationship between Alex and Seb. It became something so real and truthful. Seb’s inability to speak allowed Alex to have a place, someone, to vent to without fear of reprisal, that trust in turn helped Seb as well. I loved seeing how slowly Alex came to realize maybe everything wasn’t exactly how it seemed. The way he came to be able to understand the minute changes in Seb’s facial features to be able to understand exactly what Seb was thinking or feeling as if they were really talking was incredible. Their relationship became something so much more because of how intimate their connection had to be. When you take away someone’s words the truth is all that’s left if you look hard enough.
Alex is such an incredible character. He tries and he fails, but somehow he manages to pick himself back up again. In fact Alex rarely makes the right decision in this book and his decisions take him down some rough roads. But his heart is in the right place and he truly only wants what is best for those he cares about. Like his decision to report his sister Mimi and her daughter Star. He loves both of them and because of what he’s gone through he can see the danger looming down the road if Mimi stays on the path she’s on hooking. He wants a better life for Star than he and Mimi have had and he does the only thing he can think to do to make it better even if it means his sister hates him in the short term. My heart ached for him while he and Seb were on the streets and he was doing everything in his power to keep them safe. Alex knew only one thing that was real in his life and that was his feelings for Seb. He was going to do everything he could for them to be together
Alex’s journey from troubled teen to a young man with a hope for the future was incredibly beautiful to read. Difficult in parts maybe because of what he was dealing with and the front he put on was hard to love at first. Only until you got to the heart underneath though. It was so easy to see that the gangbanger persona wasn’t the real Alex. And Seb, well Sebastian was just beautiful. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be trapped in your own head unable to express yourself to anyone. No way to scream if things go wrong. It’s no wonder it took a special connection with Alex to bring him out of his shell after what he went through.
I’ve enjoyed the other Sara Alva books I’ve read and this one just cemented my love affair with her writing. Her YA characters are so real and rich. She gives a realistic portrayal of the foster care system and how difficult it can be to manage and how challenging those kids can be. Of course like any good romance novel there is always the bright side and the offering off hope for a better future. I loved the ending and it truly did seem like the right place to leave things with MC’s who are in their teens. Still there’s a large part of me that would love to see a sequel to this story, maybe a few years down the road. There are still a number of unanswered questions about the details of how they’re going to work it all out. I have hope that they can, but because I loved Alex and Sebastian so much I want to see it happen. I want to know what happens with Mimi and Star and if Alex can repair that relationship in the future. And most of all I want to know how much better their lives are going to be now that they’ve finally found a place that accepts who they both are. Love triumphant of course. ☺
Absolutely brilliant read that will go down as one of my favorites. Truly touching and hopeful.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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