The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

 
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The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

His sister dead just 3 months after their widowed father’s death – Pancho had promised to take care of Rosa, sweet Rosa, with her child’s mind in a young woman’s body. Why aren’t the police looking for the man who was with her when she died of “unidentified causes, no foul play”?

At 17, Pancho is ready to find that man and make him pay for Rosa’s death. But he’s not allowed to live alone at 17, gets kicked out of a foster home for fighting, and finds himself at St. Anthony’s orphanage, across town from his family’s trailer in the New Mexico desert where he watched the sunsets and worked with his father.

Everyone works at St. Anthony’s; Pancho will help D.Q. whose cancer treatments have finally put him in a wheelchair. D.Q.’s mother couldn’t handle his dad’s death several years ago and brought him to St. Anthony’s for the summer while she recovered. But summers and years went by with her hardly contacting him, until the cancer hit 6 months ago. Now she’s taking charge, ordering experimental treatments, but D.Q. wants none of it.

He’s writing the Death Warriors’ Manifesto, about how a true death warrior recognizes his someday-death and therefore lives every day till then in order to make a positive difference. Explaining that to everyday, non-philosophical Pancho is another way that D.Q. keeps going through the chemo treatments.

Piecing together the clues leading to the man who was with Rosa is what keeps Pancho going. Seeing lovely, caring Marisol at Casa Esperanza during the chemo makes their lives more worthwhile. Will Pancho find the man and avenge Rosa’s death? Will D.Q.’s mother let him go back to St. Anthony’s after chemo? Can both young men live like true death warriors? 352 pages

A great story of friendships and choices, of really living versus just being alive, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors was named 2011 Spur Award finalist for best Juvenile (Young Adult) novel, and appears on several state lists of Best Books for Teens.

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA

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The cover of this book didn’t engage me, but once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. This is a strong story about two teen-aged boys finding themselves in a world that was not kind. Pancho, an orphan, and D. Q., with a deadly cancer, are both 17 teen. Father Concha brings the boys together at St. Anthony’s home.

A key factor in the enjoyment of this book is dialogue that captures the complexity of male teens; at times very funny, other times very serious. Pancho and D. Q. are both on journeys of discovery. The visible search is for the man who killed Pancho’s sister and for D.Q.’s struggle for independence from his mother. There is much more to this story, love and hate, living and death, faith on many levels.

This would be an excellent book for an older boy’s book club. The discussion could lead to some deep thoughts.

As a standalone book to read, it will engage any serious reader, male or female.

Recommended by Barbara Feihn, Librarian.

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