Oct 19, 2008

Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico

Malin Alegria, Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico, 2008, Simon Pulse Teen Fiction.

When Sofi Mendoza sneaks off with her friends to a Memorial Day party in Rosarito, Mexico she doesn't expect any trouble getting back into the United States once the weekend is over. Unfortunately for Sofi, her parents (both Mexican immigrants) never replaced the green card she received at age 4 when they crossed the border. Stuck in Mexico indefinitely until her parents can get things straightened out, Sofi must go stay with her Aunt's family in Rancho Escondido. Life there is completely unlike the life she has experienced on El Otro Lado as just another American teenager. As the days pass Sofi finds herself changing in subtle ways as she discovers how her life might have been had her parents not taken the risk and brought their family to the United States. Yet Sofi is worried, will she ever return home to graduate and go to UCLA?

Malin Alegria clearly understands and has experienced for herself many of the same things her protagonist experiences in this novel. Sofi lives on the border both literally and figuratively speaking. Although her parents are immigrants Sofi's life is mainly that of the average American teenager. Her parents constantly strive to assimilate, with the stark contrast that while their ethnic identity does them no favors at work, Sofi is seen as interesting and even exotic by her classmates. This is turned on its head in Mexcio where because Sofi cannot speak Spanish and she is clearly Mexican, she is looked down upon. The bulk of the book concentrates on the irony that Sofi who has lived in the United States for as long as she can remember and is due to graduate from a U.S. high school in a couple of weeks, must now either wait to get back home legally or join the thousands of people who everyday attempt to cross La Frontera illegally. The book also has Sofi dealing with the universal experiences of being a teenager: disobeying your parents, figuring out how to get your crush's attention, falling in love, and becoming more aware of the inequalities of the world that surrounds you as well what parts of your life you should feel blessed to have.

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