Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors-- Francisco X. Stork

The last thing Pancho's father said to him was to take care of his sister Rosa... and Pancho, 17 and now an orphan, feels like he's failed him. When his mentally handicapped sister Rosa is found dead in a hotel room and the police dismiss the case as an accident, Pancho is out of his head with guilt and anger. Finding her killer is the only thing that matters to Pancho, until the state officials remove him from his trailer and take him to a priest run home for boys.

The priest in charge introduces Pancho to D.Q, who is dying from a rare form of cancer. Although Pancho tenaciously clings to his revenge plot, being a companion for D.Q. subtly alters his perspective on life and living. D.Q. strives become a Death Warrior, someone who lives intentionally and sucks the marrow out of life. He is writing a manifesto, and teaching key points to Pancho. But when the time comes, will Pancho focus on the beauty of life and living, or will revenge and death guide his hand?

This is a subtly written book, and the friendship between Pancho and D.Q. is endearing. Stork doesn't hurry to make a point, but neither does the prose meander. Class and racial issues are examined in a way that lets the reader maker her/his own decision about right and wrong. One of Stork's strengths in general is that he shows rather than tells. I would recommend this to boys and girls who want a book about friendship, books with Mexican-American characters, and to teens who like serious books with bits of humor here and there.

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