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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope Perez

Title: The Knife and the Butterfly
Author: Ashley Hope Perez
ISBN: 9780761361565
Publisher: carolrhoda LAB
Released: January 28, 2012
Page #: 207
Source: My Public Library

Azael Arevalo wishes he could remember how the brawl ended. He knows his MS13 boys faced off with some punks from Crazy Crew. He can picture the bats, the bricks, the chains. The knife. But he can't remember anything between that moment and when he woke behind bars.

Azael knows prison, and something isn't right about this lockup. No phone call. No lawyer. No news about his brother or his homies. The only thing they make him do is watch some white girl in some cell. Watch her and try to remember.

Lexi Allen would love to forget the brawl, would love for it to disappear back into the Xanax fog it came from. And her mother and her lawyer hope she chooses not to remember too much about the brawl - at least when it's time to testify.

Lexi knows that there's more at stake in her trial than her life alone, though. She's connected to him, and he needs the truth. The knife cut, but somehow it also connected."
First Lines:

"I'm standing inches from a wall, staring at a half-finished piece. Even though I'm too close to read what it says, I know it's my work. I run my hands over the black curves outlined in silver."
Page 1

I loved What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez. Because of that, I had very high hopes for this story. And it delivered pretty well! I'm now going to start thinking of her when I need a book about the Hispanic American experience - in real terms.

Azael wakes up in jail and has no memory of what he may have done to get there. Things feel different this time and he's told that all he has to do is remember. Many days, he is put in a room to watch a girl named Lexi - in her cell, in her therapy sessions, etc. She doesn't know he's there, but he is hoping she will drop some clue as to why he's there. Azael hasn't heard from any of his crew and is worried what that might mean. And then the truth starts to unravel...

So, let me start by saying this - I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. I do think it's very powerful and well done. But I'm not sure how I feel about what the answer means. I really won't write it here - because it would change how you read the entire book. And really, it gives an entirely different vibe to the whole story once you find out what's happened. It's a bit emotional.

Perez is a fantastic writer. She has the ability to write beautiful stories while keeping them in the right voice... and the right tempo. The language and characters feel very genuine and easily imaginable. I know lots of writers try to do this - to deal with hard issues and hard lives and all that - but Perez excels at it. I will probably read just about anything she writes from now on. Bravo!

One thing I really loved about Azael was his love of art. Well, tagging, really. But art, still. After living in NY - and seeing tags just about everywhere - I have really learned to appreciate the art medium. And I am always enthralled with how well things turn out from a spray can. I'm pretty sure I'd be terrible at it. Azael spends his time coming up with new designs and such in a book before transfering them to a wall. I feel like it's something that makes him very accessible - his love of art.

If you are a reader who is concerned with content and language - this is probably not the book for you. But if you're looking for a real story that gives you a peek into the life of a gang member who has no one else to live for... definitely read this one. As I was reading this book (which is super-short, but packed), I could very easily imagine it for a book club. Well, specifically an "at risk" teen book book club. That's right, I said "at risk." :) Seriously, though. There's lots to be discussed and I think it might give some teens the chance to see the bigger picture.

I'm absolutely recommending this book. As long as you can handle the real-ness of it :). It's a powerful story that I will not soon forget.
Other Blog Reviews:

A Good Addiction
Writing YA
Sarah Laurence
Mostly Reading YA
Kate's Tales of Books and Bands
Ex Libris (interview)
The War Comes Home II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review!
I also loved What Can(t) Wait and now I'm really excited for this book too.

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