Life isn’t easy when you have as many obstacles to overcome as fourteen-year-old Chico Boy has in his life. For starters, his Dad left over a year ago and he’s fallen behind in school. And even though his mother works hard at her waitressing job, she’s barely able to cover the family’s expenses. Things like new underwear and tennis shoes fall far down on the list of essentials when compared to gas, food and rent. And now to top it all off, he and his best friend Talula think they’ve witnessed a possible murder. But take heart, not all is bad for Chico Boy. He has a great group of friends and an indomitable spirit that keeps him bouncing high on the pogo stick of life.
Chico Boy: A Novel
Gina Hooten Popp, author
This coming-of-age mystery, set in a rural East Texas community in the 1970s, centers on 14-year-old Chico Boy, who was given the nickname by his grandfather because of his mixed Mexican and American heritage (Chico himself chafes at the redundancy of the nickname). Handsome and well liked, but struggling in school, Chico is grappling with the recent departure of his father and his mother’s inability to afford basic necessities. When he and his best friend and potential girlfriend, 12-year-old Talula, witness a shooting, even being sent to a subsidized church camp may not guarantee their safety. The circumstances of the crime are convoluted (it involves the victim’s work developing a fortified formula of animal feed), and despite a kidnapping and threats of real danger, the stakes never climb very high. Overall, the mystery comes across as secondary to the interpersonal tensions and emotions that Popp explores. Even secondary characters gain dimension through the novels quiet but immediate dialogue, but the story’s strength lies in the tender and tentative romance that develops between Chico Boy and Talula. Ages 10–up. (Booklife)