The Border by Steve Schafer

Happy Labor Day everyone! As a day where we celebrate the workers of America {and a day when most of us are reeling over a pending announcement from a certain ignoramus who thinks himself a leader}, I thought that today would be the perfect day for this review.


Title: The Border {364 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fiction {realistic}

Publication Date: September 5, 2017


One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…

This is a difficult book to read at any time, but in the political climate that is 2017, it’s especially harrowing and heartbreaking. These four kids – because they really are just kids – escape through the desert in order to reach America because certain narcos have deemed them worth killing. If that’s not terrifying enough, reading about them trying to cross through the desert on a meager supply of water and food is upsetting, angering, and so very important for those of us who might have no idea what people go through to get where we are.

All the characters screamed of reality. Pato and Arbo, cousins whose fathers were best friends and business partners, watch each others’ back while also snapping at one another in a way that only family can do. Pato is a dreamer, the kind of kid you’d find in the corner of the library, absorbed by a book {you’ll fall madly in love with him, trust me}. Thanks to his loving parents, he has lived well and has never known the kind of hardship that he must face in this book. Arbo is the same, a chubby boy who wishes to be El Revolucionario, the “peaceful wrestling doctor” that he has created. Marcos and Gladys are brother and sister, two very different sides of the same coin. Marcos is rash and dangerous, the only one to pick up a gun when one is pointed at them. He gets the group where they need to go, but at a price that might ruin them. Gladys is almost angelic, an artist and a thinker, the kind of girl who Pato easily falls in love with. In short, they are real, they are the types of teenagers that you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Together, they try to make it out of Mexico with the limited resources of four teenagers. Together, they decide to do the impossible. Together, they are stronger. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to deal with everything the desert has to offer, including heat and lack of water and animals waiting for their next meal to drop dead. Even when the four stumble across another pack of hopefuls who seem willing enough to help them, they never let their guard down, which ends up being for the best.

Steve Schafer writes their terrible journey in a way that seems so real and known. He describes each dangerous step and stumble in such detail that it’s almost as if he’s taken this path before. While he didn’t, he does explain that he has a friend whose family member was kidnapped in northern Mexico, and that is where the idea for this book came from. He said that his hope is that people will read this book and take a moment to think about what it must be like to travel this path, to leave your home and take to a desert that may kill you, all so you’ll end in a country that has so much opportunity, but may not want to give it to you.

Success, Steve Schafer, because I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for weeks after reading it. I’m still thinking about it, still thinking about the people who are coming over here in hopes of making a better life for themselves. It’s impossible not to. It’s impossible not to want to help and to do whatever you can to ensure that they make it here safely. Isn’t that really the least we can do? Treat people like human beings?

The Border comes out tomorrow, and since most of us have today off, what a great time to preorder this book. It’ll make you think and it’ll make you feel, and while the feelings and thoughts might not be so great sometimes, it’s an important story to be told.

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