TITLE: Saint Death
AUTHOR: Marcus Sedgwick
PUBLISHER: Orion Children's Books
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez - twenty metres outside town lies a fence, and beyond it, America - the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he's been working for. He's dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he's on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they're as good as dead.
Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) - she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.
What I Liked:
- There were a lot of great things about this book. One of the biggest things that impressed me was Sedgwick's writing. He wrote a fantastic depiction of Mexican life and culture, even going so far as to mix the English and Spanish language and punctuation. It was so clever and on a topic/area that isn't covered often in literature. Especially YA. Sedgwick wrote a really great depiction of poor Mexican communities, specifically Anapra, and his visual descriptors worked really well.
- This book is not so much a story as a political message and I really thought that Sedgwick deserves all the praise for this literary piece. He injected it with a good story, plenty of facts and opinions, and even a little black humour. It was a brave topic to tackle and gave some very deep reflections on topics such as racism, gang warfare, consumerism and capitalism and exploitation. There were some great quotes in this book, including my favourite: the passage on 'polite embarrassment'.
What I Disliked:
- I guess that while I can 100% appreciate what Sedgwick's book was all about and I shall definitely be getting into more of his work, this book was really not what I was expecting and in that sense it disappointed me. I wanted characters to get attached to and a plot that would immerse me, but in order to appreciate what this story was about I had to detach myself from the action and become like the titular entity herself: neutral, an observer and not allowing myself to take sides.
This is definitely one of those books that will be adored by a certain niche of people, those who are after books with deeper meaning and a need to learn something from the story. And I honestly think that people should read this book because of it's educational value, particularly as it shines a light on some of the truth regarding western morals. But for those that want a story that will bring them on a roller-coaster of a journey with likeable characters and a happy ending, don't choose this read. This is more of a political essay with fictitious situations serving as examples to Sedgwick's message.