Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beyond the Gardens by Sandra Lopez

I recently read Beyond the Gardens, the second novel by author Sandra Lopez.  Her first novel Esperanza: A Latina Story introduces readers to a young high school latina living in the barrio of East Los Angeles.  Her sequel, Beyond the Gardens, brings all of us closer to a maturing, ever-evolving Esperanza and the fun and challenges she faces as a Latina breaking out from behind the barrio walls.

Early on in chapter one, Lopez describes Esperanza's barrio she called home and her feelings as she emabarks on the college education she always dreamed of.  It is a profound description that many people of any culture can relate to as long as you have or had a longing for achieving something greater than you know.

Beyond the Gardens is a fast read, especially because it is filled with characters that you want to root for and want to stay tuned in to every step of the way!  It is a book with a variety of characters and locations, but none too overwhelming or overpowering for the story of Esperanza.  Readers feel as though they are checking in with long time friends to see how they are doing or wonder just what Esperanza will choose...the boy she's known forever or the one from what seems like another world?  Will she be able to finish college?

While I was reading Beyond the Gardens I had some very special Latina teens nearby and asked them to listen to a few pages.  Esperanza was studying for her first college finals and was in severe panic and stress mode.  The teens I read to were also in the midst of studying for high school finals and quickly became captivated by the words I read to them.  Immediately they had questions for me and wondered why they hadn't heard of such a YA novel.  "What book is this?"  "Is this girl Latina?"  "Is this available at the bookstore?"  Although they begged me to continue reading to them, I stopped and encouraged them to resume their own studying.  It was a moment that reminded me of the need for YA novels with more ethnicity.  Our communities are diverse and our books need to be as well.  We need to engage our youth with art that they can relate to and want to be a part of!

It has been a few years since I was in high school, college, or dated, but Esperanza reminded me of the girl I used to be, the friends I had, the dreams I had, the places I wanted to go, and the dreams I still hold onto.  Just when Beyond the Gardens seemed to be predictable, Lopez added another twist that threw the characters and readers, alike, for another crazy loop- just like real-life. 

****Stop by The Sol Within Anna on Thursday, February 4th for a special interview with author Sandra Lopez!  She will be giving away a copy of her novel to one lucky visitor!****

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your great review, Ana! I will visit your blog periodically to answer any questions from readers.