We Were Here

We Were Here

by Matt de la Peña

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375893834
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 31,428
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Matt de la Peña is the first Mexican American author to win the Newbery Medal. He attended the University of the Pacific on a basketball scholarship and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at San Diego State University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing. We Were Here is his third novel. Look for his other books, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, I Will Save You, The Living, which was named a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and The Hunted, all available from Delacorte Press. You can also visit him at mattdelapena.com and follow @mattdelapena on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

May 13

Here’s the thing: I was probably gonna write a book when I got older anyways. About what it’s like growing up on the levee in Stockton, where every other person you meet has missing teeth or is leaning against a liquor store wall begging for change to buy beer. Or maybe it’d be about my dad dying in the stupid war and how at the funeral they gave my mom some cheap medal and a folded flag and shot a bunch of rifles at the clouds. Or maybe the book would just be something about me and my brother, Diego. How we hang mostly by ourselves, pulling corroded-looking fish out of the murky levee water and throwing them back. How sometimes when Moms falls asleep in front of the TV we’ll sneak out of the apartment and walk around the neighborhood, looking into other people’s windows, watching them sleep.

That’s the weirdest thing, by the way. That every person you come across lays down in a bed, under the covers, and closes their eyes at night. Cops, teachers, parents, hot girls, pro ballers, everybody. For some reason it makes people seem so much less real when I look at them.

Anyways, at first I was worried standing there next to the hunchback old man they gave me for a lawyer, both of us waiting for the judge to make his verdict. I thought maybe they’d put me away for a grip of years because of what I did. But then I thought real hard about it. I squinted my eyes and concentrated with my whole mind. That’s something you don’t know about me. I can sometimes make stuff happen just by thinking about it. I try not to do it too much because my head mostly gets stuck on bad stuff, but this time something good actually happened: the judge only gave me a year in a group home. Said I had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how I think. Dude didn’t know I was probably gonna write a book anyways. Or that it’s hard as hell bein’ at home these days, after what happened. So when he gave out my sentence it was almost like he didn’t give me a sentence at all.

I told my moms the same thing when we were walking out of the courtroom together. I said, “Yo, Ma, this isn’t so bad, right? I thought those people would lock me up and throw away the key.”

She didn’t say anything back, though. Didn’t look at me either. Matter of fact, she didn’t look at me all the way up till the day she had to drive me to Juvenile Hall, drop me off at the gate, where two big beefy white guards were waiting to escort me into the building. And even then she just barely glanced at me for a split second. And we didn’t hug or anything. Her face seemed plain, like it would on any other day. I tried to look at her real good as we stood there. I knew I wasn’t gonna see her for a while. Her skin was so much whiter than mine and her eyes were big and blue. And she was wearing the fake diamond earrings she always wears that sparkle when the sun hits ’em at a certain angle. Her blond hair all pulled back in a ponytail.

For some reason it hit me hard right then—as one of the guards took me by the arm and started leading me away—how mad pretty my mom is. For real, man, it’s like someone’s picture you’d see in one of them magazines laying around the dentist’s office. Or on a TV show. And she’s actually my moms.

I looked over my shoulder as they walked me through the gate, but she still wasn’t looking at me. It’s okay, though. I understood why.

It’s ’cause of what I did.

June 1

I’ll put it to you like this: I’m about ten times smarter than everyone in Juvi. For real. These guys are a bunch of straight-up dummies, man. Take this big black kid they put me in a cell with, Rondell. He can’t even read. I know ’cause three nights ago he stepped to me when I was writing in my journal. He said: “Yo, Mexico, wha’chu writin’ ’bout in there?”

“Whatever I wanna write about,” I said without looking up. “How ’bout them apples, homey?”

He paused. “What you just said?”

I shook my head, told him: “And Mexico’s a pretty stupid thing to call me, by the way, considering I’ve never even been to Mexico.”

His ass stood there a quick sec, thinking about what I’d just said to him—or at least trying. Then he bum-rushed me. Shoved me right off my chair and onto the ground, pressed his giant grass-stained shoe down on my neck. He said: “Don’t you never talk like that to Rondell again. You hear? Nobody talk to Rondell like that.”

I tried to nod, but he had my neck pinned, so I couldn’t really move my head. Couldn’t make a sound either. Or breathe too good.

He swiped my journal off the table and stared at the page I was writing, his kick weighing down on my neck. And I’m not gonna lie, man, I got a little spooked. Rondell’s a freak for a sixteen-year-old: six foot something with huge-ass arms and legs and a face that already looks like he’s a grown man. And I’d just written some pretty bad stuff about him in my journal. Called him a retarded ape who smelled like when a rat dies in the wall of your apartment. But at the same time I almost wanted Rondell to push down harder with his shoe. Almost wanted him to crush my neck, break my windpipe, end my stupid-ass journal right then and there. I started imagining the shoe pushing all the way through, rubber hitting cement. Them telling my moms what happened as she stood with the phone cupped to her ear in the kitchen, crying but at the same time looking sort of relieved, too.

After a couple minutes like that—Rondell staring at the page I’d been writing and me pinned to the nasty cement floor of our cell—he tossed the journal back on the table and took his foot off my neck.

And that’s how I knew he couldn’t read. Dude was staring right at the sentences I’d just written about him, right? And he didn’t do nothin’. Just hopped up on his bunk, linked his fingers behind his head and stared at the paint-chipped ceiling.

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We Were Here 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Kate_E24 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. This book is written in something close to journal form, with Miguel having to fill in a journal as part of his court mandated punishment for the crime he comitted. We don't find out the exact nature of his crime until the end of the book, which I really liked, because it allowed me to really get to know Miguel without having a preconcieved notion about him related to his crime. Miguel is a great character. He find himself a criminal, one who's actions, albiet accidental, have left him an outcast from his family and in a group home for troubled boys. Even there he doesn't fit in. He just reads books, and tries to keep to himself and finish his time. When Mong, a fellow group homer who Miguel has a negative relationship to asks him to break out with him, Miguel agrees, taking his roommate Rondell with him. The trio, each vastly different from eachother, form an unlikely bond as they try to make it down the coast to Mexico. Throughout their trip they encounter alot of obstacles. How to get food, how to deal with people prejudices and even how to deal with death. By the time they reach Mexico, they realize that it may not be the right path and have to decide what is the best course. I really liked this book because it didn't shy away from some really tough issues. It had damaged characters, one with a serious illness, one suffering from the long term effects of his mothers drug use, and one trying to come to grips with a horrific accident. This book never asks us to pity them though, it simply shows us who they are as they try to navigate a world in which they don't quite fit in. I thought every character was well written and in the end I was really proud of the progress they made and the way they turned out. Overall, great book.
Mckenzie_N More than 1 year ago
        “We Were Here” by Matt de la Pena was a very good book. It is the second one that I have read written by him, the first was “Ball Don’t Lie”. This book is my favorite out of the two. In this book, the main character Miguel is a very idolizing teen. He faces troubles and hardships that a lot of teens go through today. He was not the kid who marveled in the riches and had designer clothes, he was the kid who had it tough and did not always think about the consequences of his actions. As I read most of the book a saying would come into my mind, “They’re not a bad person, they have just made bad choices.” That really relates to this book because he had made a bad choice and it ended in a lot of trouble, hurting him and his family.          Miguel had been caught stealing a bike and the judge gave him a sentence, to pay for the crime he had committed. He was sent to a group home where other boys had been for their own reasons and sentences. Having this happen, had changed him. “Man, I started to feel really bad about myself and where I was in life or something.” (de la Pena, pg. 43) Miguel knew that if he kept making these choices, it would never get better. He realized how many things he had taken for granted, like the way his mother would listen to music with him at night. Not only did he feel bad about taking things for granted, but he felt bad knowing that he had broken his mother’s heart and feels that guilt every day. He always has the feeling in him that no one wants him anymore, no one cares. As he was there, the biggest decision of his life came along. Leaving for Mexico.          I liked this book because it is very realistic and easy for many teens to relate to, even some adults. The main character goes through having to make hard choices and decisions for himself, all with living with the consequence of one mistake. He started off not caring about what happened to him, but then realized what he was actually doing to himself and others. Aside from the emotional relations, there are many teens who are living similar lives as Miguel today. Matt de la Pena is a great author who makes modern teen stories that can actually be related to and happen all the time. Not the usual, nerdy girl gets the popular guy material, and I thank him for that. I would recommend this book to teens between the ages of 14-17 because there is some mature language but it would be easier for children between these ages to understand the theme of the book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. I had to read this for summer reading and I have to say this is the only book i've enjoyed.
EllieBellie143 More than 1 year ago
I recently finished this book, this summer and it was GREAT! Miguel tells his story in a way thats so raw and truthful you can't help but feel like you're on the journey with him! It has a small similarity to "Small Steps" by: Louis Sachar. It's exciting, thrilling, and will have a reader deep into the storyline. You become emotionally attached to the charactes because they're realistic and it's like you're apart of the story! You'll cheer on Miguel, Mong, and Rondell as they discover themselves, come to copes with their future, and realize what they mean to eachother.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
After what he's done, Miguel is sentenced to a year in a group home, as well as an assignment to write in a journal in order to allow the counselors to have a look into his mind. Miguel sees being sent away from his home as a good thing. His mother can't even look at him anymore. After a short time in juvi, he's sent to a group home, and there he meets Mong, a teen who no one messes with. After a few weeks, Rondell, a guy who was Miguel's roommate during juvi, moves in. Rondell can't read, but he won't admit it. Time passes, then Mong invites Miguel to break out and head to Mexico for a new life. Rondell asks to come along. They break out together. An Asian, half-Mexican, and African-American teen head out to Mexico, and the journey will change Miguel forever. Although WE WERE HERE takes a while to get into, the story is important and powerful. All three teens must deal with the inner demons that haunt them, and they do so in drastically different ways. Miguel's viewpoint is gritty and real. He doesn't gloss over unpleasant details. Once you're drawn into this novel, though, its characters and their actions are memorable ones that won't be quickly forgotten.
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mattsya on LibraryThing 11 months ago
As far as I¿m concerned this is the best YA book of the year. Three teenagers escape from a juvenile home, steal the home¿s petty cash, and try to make their way to Mexico. It is a coming of age story told with a realistic, funny and heartbreaking voice. The characters are very real and likeable, and that just makes seeing them make a string of bad decisions so much harder. This is a book to recommend to both a reluctant boy reader, and a more sophisticated reader looking for something with substance.
kimpiddington on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Great read for HS boys-some rough situations, but positive message.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book is presented as the first-person journal of teenaged Miguel Castaneda, who has been court ordered to write this journal and live in a group home for a year. Things quickly go from bad to worse when Miguel and two other residents at the group home decide to make a break for Mexico and a new life. Along the way, Miguel learns a lot about his accomplices, Rondell and Mong, and begins to process and deal with what he has done. The book is well written, using believable colloquialisms, interesting characters, and a lot of action. It is however, rather gritty and intense, so it is not for the faint of heart.
EKAnderson on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Miguel's life wasn't so bad before what he did. His crime landed him in juvi and then a group home, where he knows he doesn't fit in. Sentenced to write in a journal, Miguel chronicles the events and people surrounding him, including his ex-roommate from Juvi, Darnell and Mong, a kid too crazy to think twice about killing you, if he felt like it. What Miguel never could have expected was that Mong and Darnell would convince him to run away from the group home in an attempt to start over in Mexico. The trip that ensues is an unexpected story of friendship and redemption. WE WERE HERE is one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching books I've read, and it is not one you want to miss.
JR_Durrell More than 1 year ago
This is a superb reading of a wonderful book. A wide ranging cast comes to life in a totally convincing way, conveying the humor and heart -- and occasionally out of control emotion -- of three teenagers who carry almost unbearable burdens from their past. This is a classic YA, in that it has moments of darkness that are almost too tough to take, but is ultimately completely life affirming and affirming of the importance of family and friendship.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
This book is written in journal-type entries in Miguel's voice. The language is filled with slang, so it took a little getting used to. I struggled for the first few entries, but then the story started flowing. (Side Note: This would make a great audiobook.) I enjoyed the beginning portion of the book, but about half way through it slowed down a lot and became kind of a slog to get through. Miguel ends up in a group home after doing something horrible - the crime isn't revealed until the very end of the book and that drove me crazy. He and two other guys decide to run away. The bulk of the book focuses on what happens to them after they leave the home. The characters in this story were well developed. I liked Mong and Rondell a lot. Mong was very authentic even if he was a bit crazy. And Rondell was so sweet despite his ignorance. The three of them made an unlikely bunch. But Miguel drove me crazy! I enjoyed reading his honest thoughts in the journal, but I couldn't stand how macho he tried to be with everyone, including Mong and Rondell. I struggle a lot with male main characters, and this book was no exception. The writing is really great. It reminded me of John Green in some ways. There are a lot of profound statements buried in this book. But, ultimately, I just didn't love the story. I wanted more action. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/02/book-review-we-were-here-ya.html
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