The mixed-race son of apple pickers, Manz lives with his hard-drinking mother and her truck-driver boyfriend in the hardscrabble world of dusty Rockhill, Texas. Forced to take a summer job rebuilding fence of a cattle ranch, Manz works alongside his friend Jed and meets a girl named Vanessa — but even among his friends, Manz suffers from an uncontrollable paranoia. As the summer wears on, Manz becomes convinced that "Operation Wetback," a brutal postwar relocation program, is being put back into effect. As the voices in his head grow louder and more insistent, Manz struggles to negotiate the difficulties of adolescence, the perils of an oppressed environment, and the terror of losing his grip on reality.
There was no better way to sum up this book than with that blurb. I tried for quite a while to write a better summary, but this one was much more concise and clear than anything I had written.
In short, this book was marvelous!! I found myself absolutely mesmerized by Manz's thought process; it just drew me in completely. We meet him and jump right into the thick of his confusing life with a withdrawn alcoholic mother, who ends up being more like a child than Manz. His mostly absent, truck-driving step-father is a sight for sore eyes, providing tension relief at just the right time; but it's not enough to keep Manz firmly planted in the here and now.
As the story moves along, the author acknowledges that no one can make it through this tough a situation alone by introducing Manz's best friend Jed and his romantic interest Vanessa. While he tries desperately to hide his deteriorating condition, Jed and Vanessa just seem even more drawn to him. Not surprisingly, Manz has a difficult time accepting their help, support, and friendship as his paranoia becomes more and more severe. The author really captured the complexity of this situation while maintaining an easy to follow storyline. There wasn't too much going on at once to where you are confused, but there is enough going on that it keeps your attention. The realism in this book is astounding and the author deserves HUGE props for accurately portraying the reactions of the characters to the situations that they face. I HIGHLY recommend that if you like the raw, grittiness of Ellen Hopkins that you give this a try. It's not as harsh, but still truly amazing.
Are you planning on picking it up?