Under the Mesquite

By Kirkus Reviews

A resilient Mexican-American girl copes with familial obligation and loss in this free-verse novel.

Drawing from her own teen years for inspiration, McCall highlights life in the borderlands: “En los Estados Unidos / I trained my tongue / and twisted syllables / to form words / that sounded hollow, / like the rain at midnight / dripping into tin pails / through the thatched roof / of our abuelita’s house.” Lupita’s first-person tale captures pivotal moments of her high-school years in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, with glimpses back at her first six years in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. During her freshman year, Lupita discovers that her mother has cancer. While her mother fights the disease and her father struggles to support the family financially, Lupita sometimes becomes the de facto parental unit for her seven younger siblings. As she worries about food and money, Lupita experiences the typical troubles and triumphs of a teenage girl; her drama teacher, Mr. Cortez, helps her find an outlet for her talent and her pain. Meanwhile, family members continue to draw strength and support from each other on both sides of the border. With poignant imagery and well-placed Spanish, the author effectively captures the complex lives of teenagers in many Latino and/or immigrant families.

A promising, deeply felt debut.