For fans of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, here's a story that is as cinematic as the book it emulates. Full of grit and poetry for the rebel with a romantic heart, Charlton-Trujillo's (Prizefighter en Mi Casa)throwback novel packs an emotional punch to the gut without overdoing it. The book opens in Three Rivers, Tex., population 4,043, as Michelle (Mickey) Owens witnesses her alcoholic father's funeral. Michelle's father was abusive, which led her mother to abandon them and her golden boy-turned-bad older brother, Danny, who ran off when Mickey was 13, after the accident that killed his best friend Roland. Now Danny has returned to pick up the pieces after six years, and the embittered Mickey, who has been marked an outcast by association, must decide if she's able to forgive him for leaving and come to terms with what happened to Roland. Mickey's internal battles feel honest, and it's easy to empathize with the litany of emotions she trudges through, though outwardly she acts headstrong and sullen. Charlton-Trujillo has created a roster of multidimensional characters; readers will hold their breath with each interactions-especially the romantic scenes between Mickey and her crush, Ricky, and her banter with her Latina best friend, Christina. Even if teens are unable to relate to the specifics of Mickey's situation, they will surely be taken by the story's winning mix of tragedy, romance and chemistry. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Amy S. Pattee
After the death of her father, high achieving Michele "Mickey" Owens knows that there is nothing left for her in her small Texas town of Three Rivers. When her estranged brother, Danny, appears at her father's funeral, his arrival stirs up history involving a destructive fire at the high school stadium and the death of one of the town's celebrated football players. Mickey is angry about Danny's sudden appearance. Although the two had been close when she was younger and had bonded over a mutual fascination with S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Danny's departure from Three Rivers and subsequent disappearance from her life severed any emotional ties that the two had enjoyed. With Danny's return, Mickey wonders if he will become a local anchor keeping her in the tiny town that she knows holds no future promise for her, and she struggles with the skeletons that Danny stirs in the family's closet. Charlton-Trujillo's novel evokes the uneasy relationships between Anglos and Latinos in South Texas and well describes the sometimes suffocating familiarity that small-town residents have with each other. This tension, depicted as a key part of the setting, is effectively mirrored in the familial tension that Danny's arrival brings. Charlton-Trujillo's attempt to weave The Outsiders into the story is not as effective, however, and sometimes comes off as trite, especially as Mickey recalls the "nothing gold can stay" moment from the novel. To the novel's credit, the story does not conclude with a pat resolution, and although hopeful, the ending reinforces the difficult work that is a necessary component of growth.
KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
This is an intense story about loss and pain. Michelle, or Mickey as she is called, has had a rough home life. Her mother left the family and over the years Mickey has lived with family friends and most recently her father, a recovering alcoholic. But Mickey also has a brother, Danny, who disappeared after a horrific fire burned down the high school stadium, taking the life of Danny's best friend. As the story opens, Mickey's father has been killed in a car crash and Danny has returned for the funeral. Mickey is not happy to see her brother: she resents his leaving and dislikes the way he remembers their father. As town members meet him, there are unpleasant scenes in public places. Without giving herself time to deal with her father's death, Mickey returns to school and is befriended by one of the "cool" guys, Ricky Martinez. Ricky has his own demons and recognizes that Mickey needs help, but as much as she likes Ricky, she pushes him away, along with her best friend, Christina, and a family friend, Uncle Jack. She refuses to make peace with her brother, until finally forced into a situation where she has to look at who she is and what she has become. Running through the story are references and allusions to S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, a book she and Danny had read together, which holds not only pleasant memories, but the key to surviving. Readers will not like Mickey, but they will see in her what it takes to fight for truth in the midst of great emotional upheaval.
School Library Journal
When Mickey's dad dies unexpectedly, the last thing she expects is her older brother to reappear. Danny took off after the death of his best friend, the town's football hero, six years earlier, and Mickey hasn't forgiven him for abandoning her. She certainly doesn't want him trying to be part of her life now that she's about to graduate and escape South Texas forever. Danny isn't prepared for Mickey's rejection and still blames himself for Roland's death; he falls into the same behavior that he despised in his father. This makes Mickey angrier, but she still finds herself defending him when other townspeople attack him. In time, the siblings find some commonality through talking about the past. When Danny finds Mickey's beat-up copy of The Outsiders , he remembers how they used to read it together and felt as though they were Darry and Ponyboy. Feels Like Home parallels The Outsiders in many ways, but unlike those characters, Mickey knows that they can't remain kids forever. Letting go of childhood is the only way to move forward with their lives. Texas's obsession with high school football is well described, as are relationships between rich and poor, and Mexican and white. Danny and Mickey's story is a worthwhile purchase, despite numerous subplots and additional characters that are sometimes distracting.
Stephanie L. PetrusoCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Calling each other "gringa" and "Mexican," Mickey and Christina have each other's backs in this small Texas town where football rules. Mickey's mother disappeared ages ago, but now Mickey's father has died in a car accident. Long-gone brother Danny shows for the funeral and seems to plan to stick around. Mickey's quiet, studious focus on getting out of town is suddenly jolted as her life unravels in the face of the town's hatred of Danny for a football-related crime, and Danny's desire to pretend that much of the past never happened. Events unfold with a lively supporting cast of family friends, bullies from school and enchanting possibilities of attention from heartthrob Ricky, a present-day football hero. Despite some awkward sentences, realistic dialogue and unexpected metaphors help to enliven a narrative that builds suspense as Mickey gradually goes back to the crucial events that sent Danny into oblivion six years earlier. An extra bonus are the multiple references to The Outsiders, as the ragged copy that Danny and Mickey shared years earlier becomes a referee at the heart of their differences. (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.
My brother and I read the opening of S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders every single day back then no matter where we left off. Before the accident anyway. I was in seventh grade and he was in twelfth and as far as I was concerned it was better than anything I'd ever heard. Not saying that I had heard a lot, but that didn't matter 'cause Danny read it and made it sound more special than anything in Three Rivers, Texas, population 4,043.
Better than swirly-tipped ice cream cones from the Dairy Queen or greasy Personal Pans from the Pizza Hut. Better than the maroon Chuck Taylor basketball Converse he got me for Christmas or the souped-up '76 ash and chrome Chevy he grease-monkeyed for six months, just so he could drive me two hundred miles to band camp. Even though his name shot out the mouths of every person in town at the state football finals his senior year, he said it was my voice he heard over all of them. Me, his kid sister, Mickey, who he'd made sure was sitting on the bench with the cheerleaders at every game. He never left me alone. Not for a girl, not for anything. That's when Danny was gold.
But when there wasn't a crowd. When there wasn't the town doting on Danny, or him and Roland preparing their speeches for the Heisman Trophy or all the energy around the first state football victory in thirty-two years, it really
was the two of us. And whenever Danny bent back the binding of that yellow-paged Outsiders, we both belonged to
something that felt like home and that meant a lot 'cause ours hadn't for some time.
I hadn't thought of any of that in years. But for some reason, in the sweltering heat of the gravesite, it was all I could think of. . . .
"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust . . . ," said Minister Howard.
Because the onetime hero turned prodigal misfit--
"So that's really him?" my best friend, Christina, whispered, wiping her streaking mascara.
Had come home.
Somehow Danny Owens, the brother I'd tried to forget, had found his way back after six years of nothing.
He pushed through the crowd alongside the tent and made his way to the front, inches from the casket. Shallow sprays of straw-colored sunlight tiptoed along his mess of unwrangled chestnut hair. His busted-up faded Levi's had given up on any kind of shaping and frayed along the dirt-stained cuffs. Danny was a hard sharp edge at twenty-four and held himself stiff as the tent pole beside him. Nothing like the full-of-hope, anything-is-possible guy I grew up with before all the trouble. But he looked pretty much the way he did that night he disappeared, so for the life of me I couldn't imagine why he'd come back--especially for Dad's funeral. But there he was, across from me and half the town he'd destroyed, with his dark dry eyes fixed on Dad's casket.
People began to whisper. Chatter. Their voices buzzed behind me, sitting in the front row, like a swarm of gnats quickly clustering around my damp ears. When I turned around and looked at Mr. Jimenez, one of Dad's AA buddies, he nudged the woman beside him to hush up. A nudge wasn't going to settle something like Danny back in town. Not that I cared one bit if it made him uneasy, standing there like he'd shown up to a party he wasn't invited to but decided to stay anyway. I just didn't want it all to start up again at the funeral. Dad deserved better than that.
Uncle Jack put his hand on my knee. Giving me that look he was so good at. The one that asked "You okay?" I'd learned to be okay. I had to be.
Christina joined in with what most of the women had been doing. Desperately fanning their faces with their hands or scraps of mail pulled from their purses to salvage their caked-on melting makeup. Men loosened up their ties or wafted their polyester jackets, releasing a nauseating combo of body odor and cheap cologne. The dress I'd borrowed from Christina, 'cause I never had a need for one, clung damp and tired from the South Texas humidity. It was like the moment Danny stepped to the front of the crowd the temperature went up twenty degrees, and the smell of smoke slithered between each and every one of us, prying its boneless body into every sweat-filled pore.
Minister Howard finished his piece. People made their way to the casket to pay their final respects. And Danny ducked under the tent skirt, weaving through the crowd, keeping his head low. Unbelievable.
"What's he doing here?" I asked Uncle Jack, whose eyes followed Danny.
"I'll be right back, Mickey."
And there he went chasing after him. Just like he useta.
Minister Howard shook hands as he made his way to me. I'd somehow managed to avoid him until right then. Not that he was a bad man, but Dad and I hadn't necessarily been the churchgoing type. Still, it was Minister Howard's basement where they held the Wednesday night AA meetings, and I guess he felt it was somehow his moral duty to speak at Dad's funeral. Or so it was told to me by Uncle Jack.
"Let the church know if you need anything, Michelle." Minister Howard smiled what must've been heartfelt, but I couldn't feel it. "We can't always understand moments like this, but your father is in a better place now. Heaven is the kingdom of delight."
I didn't smile back, which I think was the expected gesture. Just about anywhere outside of Three Rivers would've seemed a better place from what I always figured. But heaven just wasn't on Dad's to do list when he left the house Monday morning for some car parts he needed from the city. The last thing he said was how he was going to bring home Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. He'd wanted it for over a week. Kentucky Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes smothered in creamy white gravy. Gravy we'd have to make ourselves but that was fine 'cause it was something we could do together. And he always brought those--those Little Bucket Parfaits for dessert. . . .
Was he thinking about that when--
"How you doing, Mickey?" Albert Trevino said, sitting in Uncle Jack's empty seat.
He gave me a big brother kind of hug, and I know he must've showered but I could still smell the garage on him. It was a good smell. Like Dad.
"Just let us know," said Minister Howard, still standing there.
I nodded and he made his way out of the tent.
"Thanks," I told Albert. "I didn't know what to say to him."
"You hanging in there?" asked Albert.
"I'm okay," I said.
From the Hardcover edition.