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Illegal

( 7 )

Overview

A promise.
Quinceañera.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and ...

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Illegal

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Overview

A promise.
Quinceañera.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.

Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fourteen-year-old Nora clings to the hope that her father will return from America, where he's raising money for their family, in time for her quinceañera. But when he stops corresponding with them, Nora and her mother decide to go to Texas to find him. Restrepo starkly highlights the family's dire circumstances—their farm is ailing, and they have no means to survive—that spur their decision to leave Nora's grandmother behind and take the dangerous journey across the border, crouched in back of a mango truck. Though Nora is hopeful—"Why would so many people come this way if it weren't worth the risk?"—their trials don't end once they arrive in the United States. In her first novel, picture book author Restrepo (Moose and Magpie) conveys Nora and her mother's day-to-day struggles in Texas as they commission fake papers, search for employment (and for Nora's father), and fight to maintain dignity while keeping their illegal status hidden. Though a subplot involving the missing niece of Nora's employers (most likely the victim of violence) feels extraneous, it serves to further demonstrate the dehumanization, dangers, and sobering limitations that illegal immigrants face today. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
VOYA - Angie Hammond
This is a bittersweet story of a young woman courageously facing a future so far removed from what she expected that it cannot even be considered the same world. At fourteen, Nora grapples in a very big way with her faith, her identity and her place in the family. When her father stops sending money from America to help save their struggling orchard in Cedula, Mexico, she insists that she and her mother smuggle themselves into the country to find him and bring him back. After spending ten hours in the back of a mango truck with no air or water, they are greeted, not with the expected land of plenty, but with hardships, gangs and possibly more problems than they had at home. The truth is finally revealed that her father is dead and Nora must find a way to reinvent her dreams or die with him. Thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking, this novel should be recommended to anyone looking for a human interest story. Illegal would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group or a class conversation starter about immigration, prejudice, or gangs, and will be particularly of interest in areas where immigration is a common issue. Reviewer: Angie Hammond
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Nora, 14, and her family own and work a grapefruit farm in Cedula, Mexico. The town is slowly dying and no one is around to buy their fruit, leaving them with many bills to pay. To help make ends meet, Nora's father illegally crosses the border into Texas and sends money back home. But one day it stops coming. Nora and her mother follow in the man's footsteps, hiding in the back of a truck to cross into Texas. As Nora searches for her father, she learns some hard lessons about life in America, being an outsider, and growing up. While the plot has relevance, the tone of the novel is too light for such an intense topic, and the characters are not fully developed, making it difficult for readers to truly relate to their problems.—Jessie Spalding, Tempe Public Library, AZ
Kirkus Reviews - Kikus Reviews

When Nora's dad left their small Mexican town, Cedula, to make money for the family in the United States, he promised to be back for her 15th birthday quinceañera celebration. Now three years later, Cedula, without "even a stinking drug dealer in this town to spread the cash around," has closed its schools, families are moving away and 14-year-old Nora worries her father won't return in time. When his money stops arriving, her family risks losing its land and she hears a voice telling her to flee, Nora convinces her mother to use their savings to be smuggled across the border to look for him. With searing realism, debut author Restrepo describes Nora's anger, desperation and loss of faith when she and her mother arrive, barely alive in the back of a fruit truck, in Houston to a barrio that's characterized by racial division, gangs, violence and filthy living conditions. Giving up her dreams about her father's promise and American prosperity, Nora simply wants to find the truth and survive in her foreign surroundings. Newfound friends, struggling with their own poverty and gang threats, and community, made up of all kinds of outsiders, combine with her own indomitable spirit to give her the courage to fight to belong. This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)

Kirkus Reviews

When Nora's dad left their small Mexican town, Cedula, to make money for the family in the United States, he promised to be back for her 15th birthday quinceañera celebration. Now three years later, Cedula, without "even a stinking drug dealer in this town to spread the cash around," has closed its schools, families are moving away and 14-year-old Nora worries her father won't return in time. When his money stops arriving, her family risks losing its land and she hears a voice telling her to flee, Nora convinces her mother to use their savings to be smuggled across the border to look for him. With searing realism, debut author Restrepo describes Nora's anger, desperation and loss of faith when she and her mother arrive, barely alive in the back of a fruit truck, in Houston to a barrio that's characterized by racial division, gangs, violence and filthy living conditions. Giving up her dreams about her father's promise and American prosperity, Nora simply wants to find the truth and survive in her foreign surroundings. Newfound friends, struggling with their own poverty and gang threats, and community, made up of all kinds of outsiders, combine with her own indomitable spirit to give her the courage to fight to belong. This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061953422
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/8/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 302,314
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL540L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bettina Restrepo received a BS from the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of a picture book, Moose and Magpie. She worked as an internal auditor in the Hispanic supermarket Fiesta Mart, which is portrayed in this book. There she examined firsthand the challenges in the nuances of life for illegal immigrants. Bettina lives with her family in Frisco, Texas, and is the daughter of Colombian and German immigrants.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Good but......

    I purchased this book because this is my book club's book of the month. I found the book to be good, but there was something lacking in the story line that made it were I couldnt get into the story line and become invested in the story like I would with a great book. I know this is a teen genre book but I find some teen genres to be so captivating that any age group could read it and enjoy it, but this book was not one of those books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 9, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Finished it in 4 days!

    It is a great book, about family, and believing in yourself, you'll love it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    I was really taken with Illegal by Bettina Restrepo. The story begins in a small town in Mexico where Nora's dad leaves his family because work is non-existent and it's the only way to provide for his family. Nora is devastated that Arturo, her father is leaving them behind and wants him to stay. Arturo sends any money he can back to his family, but eventually the telegrams and money stop coming.

    Life at home is bad and Nora decides that she and her mother will go to the US to find her father. Leaving Mexico means they will not be able to return and most importantly they will be faced with having to leave her grandmother behind to fend for herself. The trip across the border is deadly and getting to Houston was not an easy task. Once in Houston they look for a place to stay and something to eat. Nora makes any major decisions for her and her mother and she knows that in order to get a job they will need papers. Navigating through Houston Nora meets lots of cruel people but finally finds work with a couple who own food stands. Jorge and Manuela take a liking to Nora because she reminds them of their niece who they have lost. Nora is excited to have found a job and figures that her dad has to eat and will eventually stop at the stand and they will be reunited. While working at the food stand, Nora tries to be friends with Flora but she want's nothing to do with Nora. Flora's brother is a drug dealer who mistreats Flora and her mother is too busy to notice. Most have written off Flora as a lost cause but Nora simply wants to be her friend. Nora makes it her mission to ask every worker who stops at her stand if they have any news of her father. She refuses to give up and dreams of the day she will be reunited with her father, but when she finally gets news about her father, her dreams are shattered. Nora looses faith in everything and her mother falls apart. Jorge and Manuela give Nora the only gift that could make her happy.

    I felt I could really relate to Illegal for a number of reasons. First the story is set in Houston and I know the area quite well. I like that all the main landmarks were in the book. Also I know people who have lived Nora's story and it reminds me of the suffering and pain they went through to get to this country. I would have liked to seen a few more Spanish words but that is just a personal preference. I can easily see this book translated to Spanish and the story have the same emotional impact.

    Illegal is a touching story and can't wait to read more from debut author Bettina Restrepo. I am very proud to say that Bettina is a Texas author and is part of The Class of 2K11. She will be stopping by for an interview March 8th.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    Nora

    This was awesome ( i really liked it considering the fact that my names Nora) Illegal gave something to look forwrd to after a hard day at school!!! Read it!!!!":)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    review taken from One Book At A Time

    First off, I want to applaud the author for writing a book about such a delicate subject in the US right now. Now matter what your beliefs on the subject, you have to admit it is a hot button topic. Since I live in an area that has a high amount of immigrants from Mexico (how many are illegal I have no idea), I really wanted to read this book.

    First off it's hard not to root for Nora. I think it's the natural human instinct kicking in. It hard to read about another human's suffering. Nora's life in Mexico was pretty dire by my thoughts. She doesn't go to school, has clothes that don't fit, and worries about her dad sending enough money to pay the next round of taxes on the farm. It's a lot for any 14 year old to worry about.

    It's not all picnic's and roses in the US either. First Nora has to get there. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the courage to illegally cross the border, but Nora does it with her head held high. I think it was the desperation in trying to find her father. I don't think she was expecting to live somewhere that was worse than her home in Mexico, or deal with gangs, all with trying to find out what really happened to her father. And what really happened to him was just plain awful.

    In the end, I really enjoyed the story. Although, I do wonder how common this "version" might be. I think some tend to think crossing the border and establishing here in the US is easy. This book is anything but. I'm guessing the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I'm not saying that anything in this book makes my views on illegal immigration any different. I think it just might be a different scenario than most people would think of.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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