Review│The Book of Unknown Americans

the book of unkown americans

Author: Cristina Henríquez // First publication: January 2014 // Get the book
This edition: Kindle edition by Knopf, published in June 2014 // Goodreads

Read in January 2015

Read as the January book of the month over at the Writers of Color Book Club on Goodreads.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.

My thoughts

For some reason I was expecting some type of romance between two latin American teenagers who try to make a life for themselves in the US in spite of their “disabilities”. Wrong.
This is multi-perspective book, and I have to admit that it confused me a little bit in the beginning. I figured who the 2 main POVs were, but the rest of them felt a little bit forced and I couldn’t see the point of them right away.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any connection toward any of the characters, including the main ones. I felt it was a shame we didn’t even get one chapter from the point of view of Maribel; to me she was the most complex and interesting character, but we only get to see her through the eyes of other people, who often only see what they want to see of her. I would have liked to have her perspective on the situation.

As for the plot, it is obviously a work of fiction, but I imagine that a lot of immigrant families must go through that sort of endeavours and troubles. The promise of the American Dream, and then the slap of reality. In this sense, the story felt real, as well as the different mindsets that the characters must go through.

My rating:

I’m giving this book 2.5/5 stars.
It just wasn’t was I expected it to be, and I had a hard time connecting with the characters. It almost felt like each of them were underdeveloped in some way.

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