cover image Hey, 13!

Hey, 13!

Gary Soto. Holiday House, $16.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2395-8

In 13 candid short stories, Soto (Accidental Love) exposes important, perspective-altering moments in the lives of contemporary 13-year-olds, many with Latino backgrounds, and the spiraling emotions that are synonymous with adolescence. In a moving tale, a boy whose family is leaving its dilapidated country neighborhood—“creaky and unpainted houses, trailers parked one against the other”—is torn when his father orders him to leave his dog behind. In one of the wittier entries, a girl describes the revolving careers of her father, a dreamer and schemer who has peddled tulip bulbs, sharpened knives, and imported watermelons. Several protagonists have eye-opening experiences, including an opinionated middle-school honor student touring a college that she finds to be shockingly liberal, a teen working in a soup kitchen who wants to see what it’s like on the other side of the counter, and a tough-talking girl who vows to stop using profanity after she hears a toddler repeating it. Credibly capturing teen parlance, Soto introduces a range of personalities, from insecure to egotistical, and scenarios that encompass the unsettling, the provocative, and the uplifting. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)