Somehow I missed the fact this is classed as Young Adult, and to be perfectly frank it doesn’t really belong in that sub-genre.
It is gritty, hardcore and it forces reality right down the readers throat. It was one of those books you finish and think ‘wow.’ At the same time you can’t really identify why. It is just a whirlwind of brash hard-hitting realism.
Faustino is looking for a way out of his slum existence. He is tired of being surrounded by uncertainty, violence and death. Each day is a struggle and the only opportunities for any kind of advancement in life are being part of a gang or a possible escape across the border. However the Coyotaje isn’t always the solution desperate people think they will be. They are ruthless groups/gangs with only one concern, to make money. They feed on the desperation of the innocent.
The descriptive scenes of the gambling are right on the button. People with the itch always think they can find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Just one more hand of cards, just one more attempt to outwit lady luck. Ultimately Faustino holds the weapon of his own self-destruction.
Sedgwick doesn’t pull any punches, he just whacks the reader right around the head with a literary crowbar. It’s hard to pinpoint why it is such an unusual read, perhaps it’s the gritty realism and the lack of compromise. Sedgwick is relentless in the portrayal of his authentic characters and the setting. Kudos to him for the merciless ending.