Reviews of We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here

by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez X
We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
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  • First Published:
    May 2020, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2021, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel

A poignant novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border, inspired by current events.

Pulga has his dreams.
Chico has his grief.
Pequeña has her pride.

And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they've grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life--if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.

PROLOGUE

When you live in a place like this, you're always planning your escape. Even if you don't know when you'll go. Even if you stare out your kitchen window, looking for reasons to stay—you stare at the red Coca-Cola sign on the faded turquoise wall of Don Felicio's store that serves the coldest Coca-Colas you've ever tasted. The gauzy orange of the earth—both on the ground and swirling in the air—that has seeped into every one of your happiest memories. The green palms of the tree you climbed one time to pick and crack the ripest coconut that held the sweetest water you gave your mother. And the deep blue of the sky you tell yourself is only this blue here.

You can look at all this and still be planning your escape.

Because you've also seen how blood turns brown as it seeps into concrete. As it mixes with dirt and the excrements and innards of leaking dead bodies. You've stared at those dark places with your friends on the way to school, the places people have ...

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  • award image

    BookBrowse Awards
    2020

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Their ride through Mexico on La Bestia is depicted as a multisensory experience, sometimes nightmarish, sometimes triumphant. And the conclusion of that journey highlights the various ways a trip like this can end in these days of unaccompanied children waiting in cages on the border. We Are Not from Here, with its young, sympathetic, genuinely desperate characters, is a heart-wrenchingly real novel to hand to any teen or adult who wonders how and why that journey can be so urgent and imperative for some...continued

Full Review (525 words).

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(Reviewed by Catherine M Andronik).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[A] novel precisely for this moment...Sanchez grounds herself in the reality of what it means to be a child fighting for one’s life under the most extreme circumstances. She makes us reckon with questions that break our hearts. She forces us to see how we each play a part in the plight of people who trek north to our southern border, and in what happens to them once they get there...And while Sanchez’ book was written for teenagers, adults should read it, too.

Booklist (starred review)
Gripping, poignant...this soul-shaking narrative [recalls] the works of Gabriel García Márquez.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A brutally honest, not-to-be-missed narrative...gripping, heart-wrenching, and thrilling.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A devastating read that is difficult to put down, this unforgettable book unflinchingly illuminates the experiences of those leaving their homes to seek safety in the United States.

School Library Journal (starred review)
A candid, realistic story that will leave readers thinking about the characters—and about our own world—long after the last page.

Author Blurb Alexandra Villasante, critically acclaimed author of The Grief Keeper
We Are Not From Here is a book that will mark your heart. Jenny Torres Sanchez challenges us to feel, empathize and understand. A searing, necessary and ultimately beautiful book.

Author Blurb Christina Diaz Gonzalez, award-winning author of The Red Umbrella
An achingly beautifully story...masterfully told...Jenny Torres Sanchez is a true leader within young adult fiction.

Author Blurb Guadalupe García McCall, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Under the Mesquite
With poignant, exhausting lyricism and heart wrenching poetic prose, Jenny Torres Sanchez digs deep and shows us the throbbing, aching corazón—the hopeful, unbreakable spirit of the embattled immigrant. A book for the starving, lost soul.

Author Blurb Jennifer Mathieu, critically acclaimed author of The Liars of Mariposa Island and Moxie
We Are Not From Here is one of the most relevant and needed young adult novels of the year, a must-read.

Author Blurb Lauren Gibaldi, author of This Tiny Perfect World
We Are Not From Here is absolutely stunning. It's raw and real, gritty and gorgeously told. A story that's painfully relevant today, and told with such precision and beauty, you can feel it. It's breathtaking and left me absolutely breathless.

Author Blurb Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home
An incredibly powerful, soul-searing YA. [I]mportant and necessary .... I could not put this book down.

Reader Reviews

BeckyH

A terrifying escape to the US
Three young teenagers are forced to flee their Guatemala home when they are targeted by the local drug dealer. They travel through Mexico to the United States where they hope to find safety with relatives. This novel is a searing look at the ...   Read More
Tanu Panwar

Young Adult Literature
We Are Not From Here astonishes even as it conveys harsh realities. Torres Sanchez’s prose alternately chills and sings as it brings primal human experiences—life and death, despair and hunger, fear and hope—to the page in brilliant relief. The ...   Read More
Aeron

The bittersweet
Its good, actually this is a masterpiece. The only problem is the character development. On how other characters didn't get a chance to be shown more.

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Beyond the Book

La Bestia: A Perilous Journey for Migrants

Migrants riding atop La Bestia in VeracruzIn Jenny Torres Sanchez's young adult novel We Are Not from Here, three Guatemalan teenagers embark on a dangerous journey to the United States, part of which takes place on top of La Bestia (The Beast). This is the commonly used name for the train that spans the length of Mexico frequently boarded by migrants seeking to bypass immigration checkpoints en route to the U.S. Its other common name is perhaps less lyrical but more descriptive: El tren de la muerta, the train of death. In the novel, the characters switch from train to train, revealing that there is no single La Bestia; this is a beast made of many parts.

Migrants have been riding La Bestia for decades, though the popularity of this method of travel waned considerably in 2014 ...

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