TITLE : Santiago’s Road Home

AUTHOR : Alexandra Diaz

GENRE : Children’s Fiction, YA, Middle-Grade, Realistic Fiction

FR RATING :  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars


DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Simon And Schuster for the ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Young Santiago has lived a life full of neglect and abuse from his family. His mom passed away when he was young and had to live with his grandmother afterward. His grandmother hates him and has been abusive physically and emotionally. He is sent to live with various relatives as his grandmother doesn’t want to care for him. He is used to moving around and living with relatives. He was living with his distant aunt when news of her husband losing his job came. Their financial situation wasn’t great when his uncle was working and now with losing his job and also having to care for the wife and kids, it was going to be difficult. His aunt gives him bus fare and tells him to go back to his grandmother. He decides to not go back to the household that has disturbing memories for him.

He meets a young woman named María and her daughter Alegría at a food stand. María is kind and compassionate. She treats Santi well and they start off a journey to cross the border to meet up with María’s sister who is in the US. Santi decides to join them and helps her out throughout their journey. The man that was supposed to take them to the border gets killed leaving them stranded int he desert. Santi and the girls decide to continue their journey towards the border. Once they cross the border after suffering from the heatwave, exhaustion, and dehydration they collapse and are captured. María and the kids get separated from Santi to take care of Alegría. They are taken into the immigration detention center at the border and get separated from one another. What follows is a harrowing account of Santi inside the center. The emotional, psychological, and abuse the kids have to go through is heart-wrenching to read about. The whole situation of families getting separated forcefully demonstrating the power of the US government is shocking. Babies, toddlers, young kids are all separated by gender and are not allowed to meet up with one another or interact. The kids who live in these situations are more likely to be experiencing PTSD, and probably will have to deal with the possible psychological effects of their imprisonment. The life depicted is realistic and compelling. The misuse of power, lack of proper food, good living conditions all have led to the death of the people inside the center.

The heart-wrenching realistic portrayal of people who get caught at the Mexican-US border. The story helps us understand the struggles and extreme poverty the families are trying to escape. With hopes of new life and dreams of making decent money to support their family, the Mexicans try to cross the border illegally or in some cases request asylum at the border. Regardless of how they enter the families are separated by gender, and babies, toddlers, young kids all get separated from their families at the detention center.

Santiago’s story will move you and also make you feel hopeful for the young protagonist. It was an emotional roller coaster of a read and often times the situations described in the book made it hard to read through at a stretch without getting angry and emotional on behalf of young Santi. The book is well researched and I love how well the author handled such a sensitive topic. The situation of people in the detention centers is awful and alarming. I fear for the kids who go through the situations and I worry about the lasting impact of life inside the center. I can’t imagine the pain and struggle they face day in day out because of the officials who work at these centers.

The story was well written with great characters. Santi was so good and loyal to a fault. He takes on the burden of life and holds onto the hope that things will better one day. I loved how even as a fighter he struggles sometimes with his baggage. The way he doesn’t let his past color the present, making sure to always look for the positive and fighting to right the wrongs all make his character very interesting.

I believe this book is an eye-opening realistic account of what life is like for people who get detained by the officials at the border and forced to live separately from families in the immigration centers. I was engrossed entirely by the story of young Santi, and I couldn’t put the book down. It is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, compelling story of life inside the detention centers. I believe everyone should read it despite it being a middle-grade book. I gave the book 5 stars and highly highly recommend it. Make sure to check this book out.


A young boy gets detained by ICE while crossing the border from Mexico to the United States in this timely and unflinching novel by award-winning author Alexandra Diaz.

The bed creaks under Santiago’s shivering body. They say a person’s life flashes by before dying. But it’s not his whole life. Just the events that led to this. The important ones, and the ones Santiago would rather forget.

The coins in Santiago’s hand are meant for the bus fare back to his abusive abuela’s house. Except he refuses to return; he won’t be missed. His future is uncertain until he meets the kind, maternal María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría, who help Santiago decide what comes next: He will accompany them to el otro lado, the United States of America. They embark with little, just backpacks with water and a bit of food. To travel together will require trust from all parties, and Santiago is used to going it alone. None of the three travelers realizes that the journey through Mexico to the border is just the beginning of their story.

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