Review of Solito, by Javier Zamora, read by the author


A Memoir

by Javier Zamora
read by the author

Random House Audio, 2022. 17 hours, 8 minutes.
Review written May 2, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2023 Alex Award winner

The Alex Award is for books written for adults that will appeal to teens. Solito is a worthy winner, since in the entire memoir the author is nine years old. It’s the intense subject matter that put this book into the adult market.

Solito is a memoir — and the story of the author’s journey from El Salvador to the United States all by himself in 1999 when he was nine years old. His grandfather took him on the first leg to Guatemala. But then Javier was entrusted to a “coyote,” supposed to be taken safely to Mexico and then the USA to be reunited at last with his parents.

The trip was supposed to be relatively simple, taking a maximum of two weeks. Pretty early on, the plans got messed up. I won’t tell you how many weeks or how many tries it took before he was reunited with his parents, because I don’t want to mess up the suspense — but it was more than one try and much more than two weeks.

The journey was harrowing. In boats, in cars, buses and vans, and on foot through the desert. The author remembers details from a child’s perspective, doing what people told him, and making up names for the desert plants and animals. He is especially grateful to the adults who took him under their wing when plans went terribly awry, pretending he was part of their family to get him safely past officials.

The author doesn’t tell you what to think about the journey. But my reaction is that this is terrible. No child should have to go through such an arduous journey just to have to be with his parents.

But no matter what you conclude, this amazing story will have you riveted and will touch your heart.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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