If there is one thing I've discovered in producing four novels in two years, it's that writing leaves precious little time for reading. It leaves even less time for reading works outside my favorite genres, such as historical fiction and thrillers. As I learned last week, however, it's sometimes wise to make that time and wander out of literary comfort zones.
Esperanza: A Latina Story, follows a Mexican-American girl through four turbulent years of high school in east Los Angeles in the late 1990s.
From the beginning, Esperanza Ignacio commands admiration and respect. She stays true to herself despite the demands imposed on her by a controlling single mother, two needy younger siblings, and several not-so-admirable friends, relatives, and classmates, who try to badger and bully her in unproductive directions.
As a reader, I had no difficulty imagining the obstacles the girl faced. Esperanza's world is a mostly bleak place, filled with bullying, broken families, alcoholism, poverty, and the myriad temptations of youth. Lopez does a masterful job in describing them all.
What makes this story compelling, however, is not the description but rather the uplifting tone. The author gives readers a protagonist we can root for from start to finish. She reminds us that even those living in challenging environments can succeed by remaining focused, optimistic, and compassionate.
I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Rating: 4/5.