Book Review: We Were Here (YA)

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena

Goodreads Summary:
The story of one boy and his journey to find himself.

When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.

But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.

Life usually doesn’t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.

My Review:
This book is written in journal-type entries in Miguel’s voice. The language is filled with slang, so it took a little getting used to. I struggled for the first few entries, but then the story started flowing. (Side Note: This would make a great audiobook.) I enjoyed the beginning portion of the book, but about half way through it slowed down a lot and became kind of a slog to get through.

Miguel ends up in a group home after doing something horrible – the crime isn’t revealed until the very end of the book and that drove me crazy. He and two other guys decide to run away. The bulk of the book focuses on what happens to them after they leave the home.

The characters in this story were well developed. I liked Mong and Rondell a lot. Mong was very authentic even if he was a bit crazy. And Rondell was so sweet despite his ignorance. The three of them made an unlikely bunch. But Miguel drove me crazy! I enjoyed reading his honest thoughts in the journal, but I couldn’t stand how macho he tried to be with everyone, including Mong and Rondell. I struggle a lot with male main characters, and this book was no exception.

The writing is really great. It reminded me of John Green in some ways. There are a lot of profound statements buried in this book. But, ultimately, I just didn’t love the story. I wanted more action.

I plan to give Matt de la Pena another change. Maybe one of his other books will work better for me.

Favorite Quotes:
I decided what I like about reading books. When I’m following what a character does in a book I don’t have to think about my own life. Where I am. Why I’m here. My moms and my brother and my old man. I can just think about the character’s life and try and figure out what’s gonna happen. Plus when you’re in a group home you pretty much can’t go anywhere, right? But when you read books you almost feel like you’re out there in the world. Like you’re going on this adventure right with the main characters.

I completely agree!

People change because they discover that this supposed line between being a good person and being a bad person doesn’t actually exist…

It reminds me of when you stand right up near the tracks watching a big-ass Amtrak train barreling toward you. And you think, Yo, I could just take one little step forward, onto the tracks, and I’d be dead. And deep down you assume there’s some kind of line there you could never cross. A barrier. Something wouldn’t ever let you take that step even if you tried. But guess what? There’s no line. You can do anything.

You can step.

You can die…

Yeah. I’ve definitely thought that before. Sort of interesting to read that same thought in someone else’s book.

My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.

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