Far from Gringo Land

Far from Gringo Land

4.9 12
by Edward Myers

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Rick Dresner is spending the summer with the Romero family, who live in a barrio in the hills of Santo Domingo, Mexico. He'll help them build a house on their land, and in return, they'll provide room and board and help Rick improve his Spanish. But the construction project turns out to be a lot tougher than Rick had imagined. Language and cultural differences lead


Rick Dresner is spending the summer with the Romero family, who live in a barrio in the hills of Santo Domingo, Mexico. He'll help them build a house on their land, and in return, they'll provide room and board and help Rick improve his Spanish. But the construction project turns out to be a lot tougher than Rick had imagined. Language and cultural differences lead to awkwardness and misunderstanding, especially when he falls for a rich American girl from a very different part of town. In this new twist on the classic fish-out-of-water story, it's a middle-class white boy who's out of his element and must change and grow to adapt to his surroundings.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Soon-to-be high school senior Rick hails from a middle-class family in Colorado and is spending the summer with the Romeros, friends of his family who live in Santo Domingo, Mexico. In exchange for an immersive cultural experience, Rick will “work like mules” with the family to help build them a larger home. But nothing has prepared Rick for the hard labor or being the lone “gringo” on the project. Myers (Storyteller) writes realistically about the culture shock as Rick tries to please and help his hosts, without infringing on their pride (the Romeros cannot afford basic medical treatment, even in emergency situations, whereas Rick is easily able to shell out money, and does: “[W]ouldn't it be worse if I didn't pay? Wouldn't that offend people more?”). Complicating matters is Rick's relationship with Ellen, a wealthy American girl whose father is livid about her spending time in the Romeros' lower-class neighborhood with Rick. The third-person narrative fails to delve all that deeply into Rick's feelings; for example, Rick's desire to escape his own “family hassles” for the summer is never explained. However, this quick and thought-provoking read should spark discussion. Ages 12–up. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
In this quietly powerful novel, veteran author Myers records with extraordinary sensitivity (and exquisite care for every small and telling detail) the summer seventeen-year-old Rick Dresner spends in Santa Domingo, Mexico, helping the Romero family build a house. Rick is prepared to work hard; but he is not prepared to have to haul every single brick, board, and sack of sand on his back through narrow cobbled streets inaccessible to cars. Rick is prepared to be a cultural outsider; though he is not prepared for the way in which he will feel pulled to contribute financially to his impoverished and economically struggling hosts and then find that doing so hurts their considerable pride. And he is not prepared to fall in love with a fellow American spending a very different summer in Santa Domingo, behind the high walls and locked gates of her divorced father's luxurious villa. It is no surprise to discover that Myers has based Rick's story on his own experience as a young adult helping friends build a house in Mexico. The setting, scenes, characterizations, episodes, and emotions are too authentic to have been imagined; every line exhibits compelling truth and utter believability. Reading this book is as close as readers can get to their own summer as gringos far from gringo land—a summer all young Americans would be the better for experiencing. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Rick is spending the summer before his senior year with family friends in Mexico to help them build a new house. He'll provide extra labor for the Romeros in exchange for room and board and a chance to improve his Spanish. The work is backbreaking, the construction project has its setbacks, and Rick has a tough time relating to his host family when both the language and culture are hard to decipher. A budding romance with a rich American teen, also visiting for the summer, takes his mind off his troubles. The premise of this story is promising for what it could do to advance cultural understanding, but a waffling Rick is not strong enough to take on the challenge and the Romeros come off as stereotypes. The third-person narration does little to draw readers in, with much of the story told and not shown. Rick's feeble attempts to help the Romeros through troubling times come off as self-centered and patronizing. Even the light romance, which is often related in stilted and confusing conversations between Rick and his paramour, isn't enough to make this story compelling.—Shawna Sherman, Hayward Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Rick Dresner travels to a very small town in central Mexico to help the Romeros finish their house instead of spending his last summer before graduating from high school hiking in the Colorado Rockies. In Santo Domingo, he feels as if he's traveled through time to a lost 17th-century colonial town, surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and smells, children who play with beetles as if they were airplanes, dogs that incessantly bark in the evenings and bells that peacefully sound and calm him. With a basic knowledge of Spanish, Rick communicates well enough with the Romeros and feels welcomed. But as the construction-la obra-begins, he feels exhausted. The discovery of an American colony in town puts him in the middle of two contrasting worlds. Using a third-person, present-tense narration and inspired by memories of his own youth, Myers describes Rick's contradictory feelings. Without bias, the author honestly depicts a rural Mexico that will give young American readers a sense of the good, the bad and the ugly, from the perspective of a young gringo. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Without bias, the author honestly depicts a rural Mexico that will give young American readers a sense of the good, the bad and the ugly, from the perspective of a young gringo."—Kirkus Reviews

"...this quick and thought-provoking read should spark discussion."—Publishers Weekly

"...it's a warm and unsentimental tale of a summer spent well for both guest and hosts, and of the way good people can come together across all kinds of divides."—Bulletin

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
700L (what's this?)
File size:
644 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Edward Myers is the author of 20 books for adults and 12 for children, including Storyteller, published by Clarion Books  in July 2008, and two middle-grade adventure novels, Climb or Die and Hostage, published by Hyperion. He lives with his wife and two children near New York City.

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Far from Gringo Land 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Rick jumps at the opportunity to spend his seventeenth summer in a Mexican barrio. He'll be able to improve his Spanish, live with family friends, and help them build a real house on their property. He's confident that he will learn a lot about life in a completely different culture. He learns quickly that the Romeros are a struggling family who put their guest as their priority even if it means they go without. He doesn't even mind being called a "gringo" by the locals. The construction project quickly turns out to be the hardest thing Rick has ever done in more ways than one. Physically, he's never been so tired and sore in his life. The family has invested all their time and money to create a home and it seems like they are running out of both. Will they be able to finish it before the rainy season? Rick spends what little free time he has with Ellen, an American who is vacationing at her father's elaborate home. It seems worlds away from the barrio. They meet secretly for a while, and once Rick introduces her to his new "family", the cultural and social differences seem like an elephant in the room. Can they get past these to truly get to know each other? This was a wonderful book. I highly recommend it!