Pancho has vowed to seek revenge on the man who killed his sister, Rosa. Since he cannot legal live alone, being only 17, he finds himself at St. Anthony’s orphanage in New Mexico. There, he meets D.Q., a young man suffering from cancer who is now wheelchair bound. D.Q. shares with Pancho some of his writing, called the Death Warriors’ Manifesto. These writings are about how a true “death warrior” recognizes that life is short and lives his/her life for the better.
Pancho proves himself a true friend by standing with D.Q. while he attempts to emancipate himself from his estranged mother. His mother comes out of the woodwork when she finds out about his condition and attempts to control his medical care. At first, Pancho’s support is only due to the possibility of getting closer to his sister’s killer, in Albuquerque, but as time goes on, the boys meet Marisol and though interactions with her, their lives change.
Grade 10-12; The main characters in this book are older teenagers and so, I think this book would be most suitable for that age group (16-18). Generally, I have found that readers are most engaged when the main character is around the same age as they are. Also, the philosophical depth in this book might be difficult for some younger readers. Finally, the parallels between this book and Cervante’s Don Quixote might be missed altogether by younger readers.
My reaction: This novel was very deep. It is very much a modern spin on Don Quixote, one of my favorite pieces of classic literature. I felt as though I could relate in a lot of ways to the main characters though, it did take me about 100 or more pages to warm up to Pancho’s character. This book would be good for reluctant teen readers or a young men’s book club—if you can get teenage boys to participate in a book club.
Themes: Revenge, Anger, Identity, Cancer, Illness, Orphans, Friendship