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Patrick Jones. Lerner/Darby Creek, $7.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-4677-4482-9

Jones skillfully weaves the story of José, a struggling student at Rondo Alternative High School, with José’s classwork involving Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried to deliver a powerful, realistic story, one of five titles launching the Alternative series, written at a fourth-grade level. As the only English speaker in his household, José has long served as the bridge between his undocumented immigrant family and the outside world. His many responsibilities, including working two jobs, mean he’s behind in earning his diploma, which he knows is the first step to “a better life.” In this chronicle of his last-ditch effort to graduate, readers learn that José also carries the guilt of a translation mistake he made 10 years earlier. The author’s effective use of flashbacks and crisp portraits of positive adult characters add further emotional depth to this emotional glimpse at the high-pressure difficulties facing children in immigrant families. References to O’Brien’s book will likely spark the interest of readers in that title as well. Ages 11–18. (Sept.)