Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

The year is 1968 and Sammy Santos is a complicated teenager. When his friends and family aren’t dying in front of him in their New Mexico barrio, they’re being drafted into the war in Vietnam. He struggles through his senior year of high school, torn between the places his book smarts can get him and the realities of poverty. He’s haunted by his ghosts but eventually learns to love the pigeon he feels inside him, beating its wings against his ribcage and making him do things he might later regret.

Saenz is an incredible writer. Sammy tackles some really tough topics, and other than a few comments on clothing and mustaches, it’s easy to forget this takes place 45 years ago because he talks about the universal issues that teens face (identity, the future, etc). I highly recommend not only adding this book to your collection, but checking out Saenz’s other works, like Aristotle And Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

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