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In Diego’s Crossing, seventeen-year-old Diego dreams of a brighter future in his small town near the Mexican-United States border. He tries to resist following the path of his criminal older brother but reality offers little hope. After a slow-paced opening, the novel quickly moves into high gear as the brutality of the Mexican drug trade begins to truly make a mark on the family as an unfortunate accident forces Diego’s hand as he must deliver drugs across the border in order to protect his family and save his brother’s life.

In his first young adult book, Robert Hough has done a solid job creating tension on the page with an ever-growing sense of danger from all angles of the story. The realities of the Mexican-United States border and the negative impact on those living near it are especially well examined. Readers will undoubtedly feel the heavy weight of the stress Diego carries on his shoulders: concern for his parents, anger at his brother, pressure from the drug cartel and the uncertain nature of his own future.  Teens readers will connect to themes of conflict, decision-making, and determining right from wrong. Yet the novel doesn’t preach a preferred solution to it’s audience nor does it attempt to identify the correct path for the main character to take. Instead, Diego’s Crossing offers an opportunity to view the rocky path of male adolescence as it climbs through new terrain and into the transition to manhood.

With it’s open-ended conclusion, Diego’s Crossing leaves it up to the reader to determine what direction Diego’s life path will take: will he follow in his brother’s footsteps and enter the drug trade for himself or will he find another way out of the shadows and away from the small-town and limited choices that confine him? This short but impactful novel is sure to engage all readers, including reluctant ones, and get them talking not only about Diego’s choices but also the decision they themselves face as they begin to cross into adulthood.  Recommended for our Gr. 7 & 8 students.

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