Title: The Closest I’ve Come
Author: Fred Aceves
Pub. Date: November 7th, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Trigger warning: Alcoholism, Physical Abuse, Racism
Marcos Rivas wants to find love.
He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.
When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.
The Closest I’ve come follows Marcos Rivas’ life course in a rough neighborhood /violent household & the motivation he finds to want to get out. For Marcos, the daily grind is made up of getting up for school & hanging out with his boys after school to avoid having to go home. Life at home isn’t easy & he is met with either his mothers silence and closed doors or her boyfriends fists. Mentally checked-out, Marcos’ mother is a alcoholic who doesn’t really have much of any relationship with him. Marcos himself would love to play the role of over protective son however, the truth is that internally, more than anything he wishes she would show any signs of caring for him. Life outside his home isn’t exactly the best either but in his community he has developed friendships that have become a safe place to turn to. Academics have never really been Marcos’ main focus & with no one in his corner rooting and or encouraging him to apply himself, he hasn’t given much thought to life after High School. He believes that Maesta is the end all be all for him and many other teens like him. We come across teachers who provide Marcos with the confidence he needs & who most of all, believe in him.
At times, The Closest I’ve Come was difficult to read because of the violence Marcos experiences at the hands of his mothers boyfriend. It seemed like all the odds are set against this kid & with nothing really inspiring him & his own home being so volatile, I wondered when he would catch a break. With little to no money whatsoever, we see our MC try to earn cash the right way by cleaning parking lots but we also see one of his friends who is a straight A student go about it illegally by delivering drugs. Having myself lived in for many years what was considered a “ghetto” neighborhood, the reality is that too many bright futures are dimmed before they even get a chance to begin. There were so many tough themes in this book paired with positive reinforcement from Marcos’ educators that I found myself rooting him on in realizing that he is valued.
We see a tremendous amount of character growth take place within our MC Marcos which is perhaps the strongest aspect of The Closest I’ve Come. Aceves wrote Marcos’ character in first Person POV which allows the reader to really get into his thought process. From the way he views his barely existent relationship with his mother to how he handles rejection, Marcos isn’t a confidant cocky teenage boy. His physical appearance is something he is always hyper aware of because he lacks funds to buy clothes or pay for grooming. Something as simple as a haircut could boost his confidence briefly & a lot of the time he didn’t get the end result he was seeking but the effort was there. I LOVED this character & how humble he is the core, he definitely had me in his corner the whole way through. We meet some of his friends from around his neighborhood, mostly through visits to the courtyard to shoot hoops. There’s a sense of loyalty from these guys that I’ve seen for myself in neighborhoods where most don’t have it to make ends meet. I enjoyed one particular scene where one of the guys sets up shop on his stoop to cut hair for a couple of dollars, very much like a brotherhood. Although we meet many of Marcos’ acquaintances, they aren’t as fleshed out as our MC but nonetheless they serve their purpose in giving the reader a picture of what Marcos has in his life. The friends he has don’t really know how bad his home life is but I was glad to see them rise to the occasion when he really needed them.
Told in first person POV, The Closest I’ve Come is raw & uncensored giving Marcos’ voice & narrative life. Own Voices Latinx author Fred Aceves was raised in a poor working class neighborhood just like the one he brings to life in this book. From the dialogue between Marcos and his friends in the streets to his stream of consciousness on life after High School, our MC is raw & uncut just like the world he lives in. Many who come from similar backgrounds will find this book to be very relatable. To those who don’t, The Closest I’ve Come is a insiders look to a reality that exists in our real world. Not only do we get POC representation but we also see socioeconomic diversity when Marco meets & befriends a HS student from a wealthy background. The challenges Marco has in his life are going to resonate with others & that is one of the biggest reasons I am happy to see this narrative hit the shelves.
*HUGE thanks to HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Fred Aceves for the eGalley copy of The Closest I’ve Come in exchange for an honest review.
Happy Monday Bookworms! hope you all had a wonderful weekend & managed to squeeze in some good books. With so many diverse reads coming our way, which ones are you looking forward to? any Own Voices on your 2018 TBR?
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