Hi everyone! As you can probably tell, the book of the day is We Were Here, by the crazy-talented Matt de la Peña. And god, what a book. It was original and gave me feelings and sucked me in and it was good, goddangit.
The book centers around Miguel Casteñeda, a young man who has been sentenced to a year in a group home for what he did. The book takes the form of the journal the judge ordered him to write, so that a counselor can figure out how he thinks. Whatever. Miguel doesn’t care. About anything.
And then he meets Mong, a psycho kid with a shaved head who fights like a madman. Then he meets Rondell, who is huge and often confused and probably believes in God more than he believes in anything else. And when Mong tells Miguel he’s leaving, and asks if Miguel will come with him, and Rondell overhears. . .well. You can probably guess what happens next.
The boys are headed for Mexico, where they plan on getting jobs and being free and meeting fine girls. The book follows them as they travel south, trying to avoid the police and get to the border.
The thing is, We Were Here really does feel like a journey, and I don’t think I can come up with another book that so strongly conveys this. Yes, the boys all had that initial goal: To get to Mexico. But the book is so much more than that, expanding and growing to contain a REAL journey. If you were to flip back to the first page immediately after finishing it, it really hits you just how far Miguel and those around him have come. The beginning seems like forever ago, in a good way. To refer to this book as a single story doesn’t seem right at all–it’s stories upon stories, miles upon miles.
And good lord, the writing. I didn’t want to put this book down so many times. Even when I knew I should be doing something else, I HAD to know what would happen next. Matt de la Peña keeps his readers hooked, and oh my gosh THE SECRETS. What’s Rondell’s story? What in the name of the universe is up with Mong? And oh my god, what did Miguel DO? SERIOUSLY.
TELL ME, MATT DE LA PEÑA. I NEED TO KNOW.
And the characters. I loved the characters. So much. They’re all so unique and well-written, and by the end of they book, they feel like so much more than the words on the page. It doesn’t seem crazy at all to wonder where they are now, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking. They’re just that real. Rondell is great, and each of the side characters is, too, like Mong’s cousin and the group home counselor and Flaca, a girl Miguel meets not far from the border. Miguel himself is written awesomely, and his voice is really strong. It only further captivates the reader.
We Were Here is, honestly, kind of hard to describe (like so many great and amazing books are). It made me feel so much; it worked its way into my mind and kept me invested. It was like I took a deep breath and plunged into the ocean that Mong loves so much, and I’m still not sure if I’ve completely emerged.
This book hurts, but in that good way that books can. It shocks, sometimes, and when a certain event occurred in the middle, I remember sitting in my bed, stunned and foggy-headed. It was all sad in a sort of steady, suck-you-in way, but this only added to the book as a whole, and it was also full of happiness and discovery and jeez, I don’t even know what I’m saying. I told you it’s hard to describe.
On a sidenote: THAT THING IN THE MIDDLE THOUGH. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY OKAY. I JUST CANNOT. OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT IT WAS SO FANTASTICALLY WRITTEN AND IT HURT AND WAS SAD AND WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
And then there was this one part where a very important connection was made to the title and it was so sad and good and totally PERFECT and just AGH WHAT IS THIS BOOK HOW DO I WRITE ABOUT THIS BOOK IT’S CAUSING TOO MUCH CAPS LOCK.
We Were Here is an amazing novel. I’m aghast that this is the first time I’ve read anything by Matt de la Peña, because he is such a marvelous writer and I have so many feelings about this book and just READ IT OKAY. The descriptions, the setting. . .I cannot deal with this. READ IT.
I’m sorry, I have to go drink cocoa or something to recover from my book hangover.
I hope you all have a lovely Friday, and a lovely weekend after that!
Bookish Quote of the Day: “I didn’t see them as random kids anymore. They were real. And I think it’s harder to be close to people when you know they’re real.”
“Plus it’d be messed up if somebody who was God only cared about seeing people who did everything right, or rich people, or smart people. He should see people like Rondell, too. Rondell’s life shouldn’t mean any less than anybody else’s.” —We Were Here by Matt de la Peña
P.S. Sorry for the big gap in between posts. I blame the Internet. And procrastination. It’s all procrastination’s fault.
P.P.S. Also the 1995 BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. It’s all Darcy and Elizabeth’s fault. BLAME THEM. (And yes, I did include two quotes. Because.)