HarperAlley. Jul. 2023. 240p. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780063054950; pap. $18.99. ISBN 9780063054943.
Gr 8 Up–When Mateo was three years old, his parents brought him to Arizona to live, never revealing that they were there illegally. Mateo only found out just before he and his parents were deported back to Guadalajara despite their best efforts to remain in the country. Now that Mateo is a teenager, his parents have arranged for someone to help him cross the Sonoran Desert so he can join his grandmother in Phoenix. Mateo follows his parents’ instructions until he meets with the coyote, whose caution surrounding the Border Patrol causes Mateo to grow impatient and attempt to cross on his own. Just when he is about to be caught, he receives help from an unlikely source: a ghost named Guillermo, who has been helping migrants cross for decades. Mateo at first struggles to accept that Guillermo is not a hallucination. But after their initial arguments and difficulties, the two become friends and learn more about each other, with Mateo attempting to help Guillermo as much as Guillermo is helping him. As they bond and share more about themselves, they come closer to one final danger that they will face together. Bold, vibrant colors fill the panels, pulling readers into the hot daytime desert and just as easily as into the dark night. Speech bubbles are either yellow to indicate speech in English or white to indicate Spanish. Readers stay mostly in the present with Mateo, but occasionally travel back to Mateo’s youth or to Guillermo’s past. Characters are expressive, and Mateo’s attitude, influenced by impatience and rash decisions, changes as the story progresses.
VERDICT Exploring topics of immigration, racism, freedom, and helping others, this action-packed graphic novel presents the journey across the border in a whole new way.

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