Summary: A heartwrenching YA coming of age story about three siblings on a road trip in search of healing.
With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.
Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.
Review: Relationships and connections. These are things that keep Teodoro “T” going. First, he has a best friend who believes in him and is willing to stand by him through pretty much anything. Second, he has a sister who will push him, but will also hold him tightly. I loved seeing the back and forth between Xochitl and T. They both want the best for each other and their brother Manny though they don’t always go about things the same way. Flores-Scott lets readers get to know T, but also allows us to see the ways in which the siblings interact and how those relationships shape the individuals. Beyond these two, he also has quite a few others in his corner both near and far. One of the beauties of this story is how many, many people are willing to pitch in to make life better for both T and his brother. Their lives are often dark and difficult, but hope doesn’t curl up and die because of the many people around them.
And who can resist a road trip story? Road trips almost always provide moments for bonding even if it’s just having some horrible shared experience. This particular road trip is all about connecting and re-connecting with people. Each stop felt like they were tying themselves to others. I pictured pins on a map with the strings connecting from one to another. This was not an upbeat road trip though. There are some moments of humor, but Manny’s PTSD is intense and no matter how far they run, they can’t seem to escape it. Xochitl’s plan is to buy time for healing, but this isn’t easy.
This might be a challenging book for those who have experienced PTSD in their families. The pain is hard to witness even knowing it’s fiction, but the love and caring of so many people offers hope and optimism. Woven in throughout the most difficult issues, there are moments of laughter and a lovely bit of romance so it’s not constant intensity.
Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy family stories. This is not the story of a perfect family, but does show a family willing to do what’s needed even when it gets hard. I loved getting to know the characters in this story and hope many people get to experience them too.