Patricia Santana, Author . Univ. of New Mexico $19.95 (276p) ISBN 978-0-8263-2435-1

Seasoned with salty dashes of Spanish and radiant with family warmth and affection, Santana's 1999 Chicano/Latino Literary Contest–winning first novel tells the tender coming-of-age tale of a young Chicana in 1969 San Diego. Fourteen-year-old Yolanda "Yoli" Sahagún, the seventh of nine children, is overjoyed to be planning the coming-home celebration for her favorite brother, Chuy, a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. But when he arrives, he is distant, despondent and violent, clearly not the same man who was drafted years before. Early the next morning, he inexplicably leaves town on his prized motorcycle for points unknown. This development disappoints and worries Yolanda, who is meanwhile battling adolescent troubles of her own: bad skin, sprouting breasts and budding love for popular, timid schoolmate Francisco. When Chuy eventually returns home once again, he remains distant, disrespectful and even cruel, hurling anti-Mexican slurs at friends and family. His much-foreshadowed emotional meltdown occurs when a traditional night game of hide-and-seek goes heinously awry, forcing him to evade police prosecution and go into hiding. The author injects a surprising amount of humor into this often sobering tale, mostly through her account of Yoli's escapades as she tries to stay afloat on the turbulent waters of puberty. Wonderfully realistic dialogue, Yoli's candid first-person narration and a feel-good conclusion replete with wedding bells round out this remarkably touching story about the ramifications of war on a shatterproof Mexican family. (Feb.)

Forecast:Santana has her finger on the pulse of Mexican-American life in Southern California, and local sales should be strong. A few reviews in major publications would go a long way toward getting the book into readers' hands in other parts of the country.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Prebound-Sewn - 276 pages - 978-1-4176-2486-7
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-8263-2436-8
Open Ebook - 276 pages - 978-0-8263-2437-5
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