Last Summer of the Death Warriors, by Francisco X. Stork (book review) – is growing up harder than dying young?

book cover of Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork published by Arthur A Levine BooksWhat does life mean when you know – without any doubt – that you are going to die way too young?

Is there even any sense in trying to live a good life when the specter of Death haunts your breakfast, lingers in the corners of your backpack, rustles the leaves of the tree you can no longer climb?

Two teenage guys try to find the balance – D.Q. knows he’s dying fast, Pancho might not care enough to make it through the summer himself…

Francisco X. Stork says on his blog that he concentrates first on being a good writer, then on being a good Latino writer. I’d say that he succeeds at both. Check out his Marcelo in the Real World, too.

Book info: The Last Summer of the Death Warriors / by Francisco X. Stork. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2010. 352 pgs. [author’s website] [publisher website]

My Recommendation: His sister dead just 3 months after their widowed father’s death – Pancho had promised to take care of Rosa, sweet Rosa, with her child’s mind in a young woman’s body. Why aren’t the police looking for the man who was with her when she died of “unidentified causes, no foul play”? At 17, Pancho is ready to find that man and make him pay for Rosa’s death.

But he’s not allowed to live alone at 17, gets kicked out of a foster home for fighting, and finds himself at St. Anthony’s orphanage, across town from his family’s trailer in the New Mexico desert where he watched the sunsets and worked with his father. Everyone works at St. Anthony’s; Pancho will help D.Q. whose cancer treatments have finally put him in a wheelchair.

D.Q.’s mother couldn’t handle his dad’s death several years ago and brought him to St. Anthony’s for the summer while she recovered. But summers and years went by with her hardly contacting him, until the cancer hit 6 months ago. Now she’s taking charge, ordering experimental treatments, but her son wants none of it.

Now D.Q. is writing the Death Warriors’ Manifesto, about how a true death warrior recognizes his someday-death and therefore lives every day till then in order to make a positive difference. Explaining that to everyday, non-philosophical Pancho is another way that D.Q. keeps going through the chemo treatments. Piecing together the clues leading to the man who was with Rosa is what keeps Pancho going. Seeing lovely, caring Marisol at Casa Esperanza during the chemo makes their lives more worthwhile.

Will Pancho find the man and avenge Rosa’s death?
Will D.Q.’s mother let him go back to St. Anthony’s after chemo?
Can both young men live like true death warriors?

A great story of friendships and choices, of really living versus just being alive. (one of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

What do you think?

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