The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork ARC
Release Date: March 1, 2010
IQ "He [D.Q.] wrote that the reason God created the world was because He was lonely. He wanted others to love Him, but He didn't want to force them into it. So in order to make sure that there were souls chose to love Him, he made the world such that He was kind of hidden. Then he put people on earth and gave them some clues about how to find Him. That way, some could choose to look for Him and some could ignore Him. And He could be sure that those who persisted in looking for Him truly loved Him." Helen pg. 114
*Deep breath* I'm trying to keep from totally raving about this book because that review would not be particularly helpful. Warning: This post may have random moments of gushing. First of all, this books is by the same author of Marcelo in the Real World. I love The Last Summer of the Death Warriors but I LOVE Marcelo in the Real World more (but I love them both let's be clear, Marcelo is just my first favorite). Anyway, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is about Pancho and D.Q. Pancho's life is filled with death, his mother died when he was five, his father died in a work-related accident and his sister was murdered. Pancho has to go live at St. Anthony's (an orphanage), where he meets D.Q. who is dying of cancer. They are the same age (17), but view life vastly different but both in a very mature way. All Pancho wants his revenge, he wants to find his sister's murderer and kill him (or her) since the police refuse to do anything (citing a lack of evidence indicating foul play). D.Q. is writing the Death Warrior Manifesto, a guide for him on how to live life to the fullest, full of love and faith. He has very little time left. Finally, D.Q. wants to profess his love for Marisol to her, but Pancho is falling in love with her as well.
I don't want to compare Mr. Stork's two books, but I will say this, the main characters are WAY different. Not just for the obvious of Pancho not having Asperger's. Marcelo is brilliant and innocent, Pancho is smart in his own way and he has lost his innocence. Pancho has to repeat his junior year (who can blame him with all the family tragedy that has occurred) of high school and he doesn't always understand the conversations D.Q. has or the words he uses (along with other people in his life). He doesn't speak Spanish either, his father wanted his kids to speak English since they grew up in America. Pancho can read people really well though and that's a valuable skill. The romance was different too, because it was an interesting love triangle. You want Marisol (a teen who volunteers at Casa Eperanza, an outpatient home) to choose D.Q. AND Pancho, I hated that she had to choose because I grew to love both boys and see their good and bad qualities. Also, Pancho describes Marisol as "nothing to write home about" but she has an inner beauty and she's a wonderful person and I really felt for her and her struggle over which guy to choose. D.Q.'s relationship with his mother, Helen is messed up, its's been seen before but it's different too, because Helen really feels bad and wants to help D.Q. as much as she can, she just doesn't realize that her way might not be the best way.
Another thing I really like about Mr. Stork's work is that he writes about people with mental disabilities, a group of people that is all too often ignored in YA literature. Pancho's sister, Rosa has the mind of a ten year old, but she's twenty. She knows how to read, write and do basic arithmetic and she has a job, but she doesn't fully understand the ways of the world. I was so touched by the relationship between Pancho and Rosa because it was so genuine, he loved her, but he was also ashamed of her and how he treated her when he felt ashamed. Pancho would get angry at his sister over things she couldn't control or what she didn't/couldn't understand. He feels remorse for all this and it's part of the reason as to why he must find his sister's murderer and impart his own form of justice, he feels that he needs to show his sister how much he loves her. Her story broke my heart, it is told through her diary entries and Pancho's own memories, good and bad.
This book is memorable and utterly quotable, especially the Death Warrior Manifesto. D.Q. has immense faith, but it's not particularly religious (i.e. Jesus is not mentioned a lot, God is but mostly it's just about having faith in a higher being and a better life ahead of us). One of my favorite parts of the Death Warrior Manifesto is the no whining rule because it re-defines whining in a way I never really thought about "You know what whining is? Whining is that little voice inside of us that always complains about whatever happens. The voice doesn't have to be heard by others for it to be whining." D.Q. pg. 39 I've never considered that internal complaining is whining, I intend on trying to incorporate all parts of the Death Warrior Manifesto (living a life of gratitude and love) in my own life because they are valuable lessons and can enrich all lives. This story never becomes too depressing or cliche in the whole angry-teen-who-only-grunts or brave-boy-dying of cancer. I don't mean this in an offensive way, but it was nice to see a more original depiction of someone suffering from cancer, D.Q. is a great character and very brave, but he's also human, a saint with flaws. And Mr. Stork is one of the few authors that can make you feel slightly bad for a murderer.
The ending was unexpected. I was expecting something a little more dramatic, but I liked the ending. In retrospect, I think it fit well with the book. I was on edge the whole time, wondering if Pancho would follow through with tracking down his sister's murderer (D.Q. and Marisol are desperately working to change his mind), if D.Q. would be healed, and who Marisol would choose. Francisco Stork is an amazing author, his work will never cease to amaze me and I am in awe of his talent for bringing genuine, lovably flawed characters to life and writing stories that cause your heart to break and mend all on its own. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is a reaffirmation of what is important in life and also provides a fresh perspective on the importance of never taking each day for granted. Alright, this review is long enough. But this is a MUST READ and is another book you will want to revisit. High school and up.
Disclosure: Received from Lyn and it's autographed!!!!! I was so ecstatic when I opened the mail and found this, I walked around with a grin on my face for the rest of the day. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to read this book. And no, I did not give this book a good review because it was autographed because truest me, I've reviewed some decent/just ok books that have been autographed (I just choose not to mention that).