by Jennifer De Leon


by Jennifer De Leon


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Caught in the crosshairs of gang violence, a teen girl and her mother set off on a perilous journey from Guatemala City to the US border in this “engrossing” (Kirkus Reviews) young adult novel from the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.

For seventeen-year-old Maya, trashion is her passion, and her talent for making clothing out of unusual objects landed her a scholarship to Guatemala City’s most prestigious design school and a finalist spot in the school’s fashion show. Mamá is her biggest supporter, taking on extra jobs to pay for what the scholarship doesn’t cover, and she might be even more excited than Maya about what the fashion show could do for her future career.

So when Mamá doesn’t come to the show, Maya doesn’t know what to think. But the truth is worse than she could have imagined. The gang threats in their neighborhood have walked in their front door—with a boy Maya considered a friend, or maybe even more, among them. After barely making their escape, Maya and her mom have no choice but to continue their desperate flight all the way through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of crossing the US border.

They have to cross. They must cross! Can they?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781665904179
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Publication date: 03/26/2024
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 664,993
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: HL590L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Jennifer De Leon is an author, editor, speaker, and creative writing professor who lives outside of Boston. She is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, the 2015–2016 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library, and a 2016–2017 City of Boston Artist-in-Residence. She is also the second recipient of the We Need Diverse Books grant. She is the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and Borderless.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 1

Two Weeks Earlier

Maya felt about tomorrow the way she did at the top of a roller-coaster ride, right before it dropped—she both wanted to fall, feel the wind on her face, and to hold on, hold on, before everything changed.

“So, mañana is the big day?” her mother asked. It was late. She leaned against the bathroom doorframe and tightened her fuzzy pink robe at the waist. Her hair was wrapped in a white towel. The smell of shampoo lingered in the air.

“Yep,” Maya said. She fluffed her pillow, trying to get comfortable on the mattress she shared with her mother and with Luna, who was inching her way underneath the covers, tail wagging. Every evening Maya and her mother lay the mattress down on the living room floor, and every morning they lifted it back up and tucked it between the sofa and the wall. In this way, the living room became their bedroom and vice versa.

“Don’t be worried. I have a good feeling, mija,” her mother said, toothbrush in hand.

Tomorrow the director of Maya’s high school—the best fashion school in Guatemala—was going to announce the top ten designers of the year. These ten would then get to showcase three looks each in the annual fashion show. Two weeks from now! This was the first year Maya was even eligible; you had to be at least in your second year at the institute and be sixteen. She—finally!—was both.

“Are you worried about Lisbeth?” her mother asked before spitting out toothpaste in the sink.

“A little...” Maya snuggled against Luna.

Now her mother returned with a jar of Pond’s lotion. “What’s meant to be is meant to be.” Maya watched as she rubbed cream onto her cheeks. Okay—strange. That lotion was a morning smell, one that belonged next to coffee and oatmeal and folded newspaper pages on the kitchen table. Not to evening.

“Hey, what’s going on? You never shower at night.”

“Ay, mija. You have talent. And you work harder than most girls at that school.”

“And you’re changing the subject. Why are—”

“I have an early appointment. No time to shower in the morning.” Mama waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, you have real talent.”

Maya managed a small smile. It was true that she could tear a yard of fabric with nothing but a steady hand and a ruler, and she knew a dozen different hand stitches by heart. Though she preferred La Betty, her sewing machine. Tucked in the corner underneath the swaying light bulb, its loyal presence—along with Luna, who liked to sit on Maya’s feet while she sewed—kept her company whenever her mother had to work late.

Dresses were Maya’s favorite. Tops a close second. Fixing hems, shortening skirts, creating pockets, closing pockets—she could practically sew those in her sleep by the age of ten. She couldn’t afford the fancy fabrics sold in the Mercado Central in the capital, so she improvised with the scraps her mother brought home from the factory, stitching them together. Soon she began including other materials. She began using, well... trash. Not trash from the dump. Trash in the sense of: plastic cups, scratched CDs, tablecloths. Even crayons and playing cards. Anything and everything. So Maya’s mother enrolled her in a sewing class, and she was sold. And it was this method of hers—the pinching of this and that here, that and this there, from cotton to denim to linen, and patterns from polka dots to stripes—that became her signature style. She learned about it on Instagram—it was a whole thing. Since then, trashion has been her passion! Now she prayed it was enough to win her a spot in the fashion show.

As her mother worked the Pond’s into the creases at her neck, the steam from the bathroom glowed behind her. “I’ll finish up in a sec. You go to sleep.”

“Okay—good night.”

“Good night, mija.”

Maya set the alarm on her cell phone for six thirty a.m., placed it facedown beside her, and curled into the sheets. “Besides...” She spoke into the darkness. “You’re right, Mama.”

“Right about what?”

“If I don’t get it this year, there’s always next year.”

Silence. Except for Luna snoring.

“Mama? Did you hear me? This is when you say, ‘Yes, mija, definitely.’” Maya swore she could hear her mother swallow.

“Sí, mija,” she said at last.

Well, that wasn’t exactly encouraging, Maya thought, fighting sleep. And just as she closed her eyes, she spotted a quick-moving shadow. Her mother, making the sign of the cross. Her mother. Carmen. Her only family in the world. The two of them finished each other’s sentences, ate halves of the same sandwich, shared clothes, sunglasses, sneakers, sometimes makeup on special occasions. They even shared the same dream: to open their own shop one day, not just a tailor shop, but an actual label. They’d need to come up with a good name....

The next thing Maya knew, it was morning. On the kitchen counter was a plateful of scrambled eggs and a slice of buttered white toast, a wicker basket full of pan dulce beside it. Her mother had already left for her appointment. Appointment for what? Maya wondered.

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