High school senior Scott just thinks he has problems. At home his unemployed, depressed, alcoholic dad is becoming increasingly abusive towards him, his mother and his younger sister Evie. Even though he has several outstanding college offers for the fall, he feels guilty about leaving his mom and sister, knowing how much they need his paycheck from his part-time job at Cafe Flores. In his school life, his abruptly-terminated relationship with girlfriend Becky and his unrequited romantic interest in Winny complicate things further.
Suddenly a bigger problem emerges when, while finishing up an evening shift at work, he becomes—along with cafe owners Sylvie and Oscar, some regular customers and Winny—a hostage of Sylvie’s brother and his two thug friends, who have come to rob the place in order to pay off a debt to the local drug lord. The ensuing mayhem includes an attempted tunneling escape, murders of customers, the shooting of Oscar, and a gang fight (to list the dramatic high points). Running concurrently is a parent-teen conflict between Winny and her parents, who refuse to take seriously her extraordinary artistic talents and insist she follow their plan for her to study pre-med in college.
Needless to say, there is a lot of violence in this book. I found it curiously lacking in suspense but teenage readers might find it otherwise. The main characters do show personal growth with better understanding of themselves and those around them. There is a great deal of offensive language, references to drug culture, gang activity, and alcoholism, but there is also positive commentary on academic achievement, personal responsibility and individual accountability. Take your pick.
Categories: Addiction, Bullying, Crime, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Immigrants, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Violence