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on Dec. 19, 2011 :
“Betrayed” is a book by a writer with an agenda—but it doesn’t read like an agenda, a manifesto, or indeed, anything but a novel. A pair of teenagers (American Austen, and Rico, whose family is in the country illegally) end up taking on some of the big bad guys in the circles surrounding immigration issues. While it may sound like a stretch for teenagers to get involved in such heavy matters, the story unfolds naturally enough to be fairly believable.
Following some rumblings in their hometown, Rico and his family decide to return to Mexico to apply for legal U.S. citizenship because it’s “the right thing to do.” When Austin visits his friend across the border, Rico’s cousin introduces them in person to the very real individual faces of desperation—the driving force behind illegal border-crossing, which topic has been causing waves in political circles around Austen’s dad.
Through the medium of the boys’ experiences, Morton puts human faces on issues which we’re more accustomed to hearing as political rhetoric and soundbytes. His book would be a great way to introduce these matters to young readers, in a compassionate context which acknowledges the difficulties of a world where matters aren’t black-and-white, and even the “right thing to do” isn’t always a clear choice.
Morton is even -handed in his writing, presenting political viewpoints without resorting to rhetoric, incorporating characters’ religious beliefs without preaching, and integrating explanations without slowing the storytelling (as in his reference to “the primaries—the political version of playoffs”). Young readers unfamiliar with politics, immigration, or international and humanitarian issues would find enough information in the story to follow it with ease—and come away from their reading with better understanding. This book is definitely going on the digital shelf I stock for my own young adult reader.
(reviewed the day of purchase)