By Matt de la Peña
Other books by Peña:
While sitting on a long plane ride to Florida, I finished reading Matt de la Peña’s I Will Save You. This may cause you to think that I am a fascinating world traveler, but in reality, I am Katie Mason; second year literacy specialist graduate student at Nazareth College, taking a break from class assignments and teaching ELA at a secondary school. As a teacher, I am always on the hunt to find engaging YA literature that I can recommend to my students, or anyone who will listen to me for that matter.
I was inspired to pick up I Will Save You after reading another book by de la Peña, We Were Here. For those of you unfamiliar with de la Peña’s We Were Here, it is a story about a young adolescent, Miguel, struggling to forgive himself for a tragic event that changed his life and his family forever. While de la Peña informs the reader Miguel committed a tragic crime, the reader spends the rest of the novel gathering clues in order to solve the mystery of Miguel’s crime. Once you read what he actually did, your outlook on the book will forever be changed.
While de la Peña has written four YA books, I Will Save You’s jacket summary and the fact that it is was named a 2011 ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers caught my attention. Besides being on the hunt for a book I can easily get lost in, I am always on the hunt for books that appeal to my students, especially those who are reluctant.
Once I started reading, I had a hard time putting the book down. Luckily I had plenty of time, thanks to a long plane ride, to dedicate to a nonstop reading session. De la Peña begins the book by telling you the end of the story. This may seem like a spoiler, but the story has a secret unexpected twist that does not unfold until the end of the novel. By the time you reach the climax of the novel, you forget that de la Peña already informed you of the ending.
For a sneak preview of the story, read the following excerpt:
“Please,” Olivia said in a tiny voice.
“You won’t,” Devon said.
“I have to, “ I said, and I drove him harder into the weak part of the fence until it broke like I know it would break and I shoved him down the cliff and watched his body bounce-tumble-fall-stretch-fetal-thud into the thick sad sand and lay motionless…
Initially I was taken aback when I realized that de la Peña began at the end. My first thought was, “Why even bother finishing it?” Kidd pushes and kills Devon. Olivia is sad. Kidd is put in solitary confinement. Wrong. The rest of the novel you are given a different story, one where you spend hours unraveling the mysteries of Olivia, Kidd, and Devon’s world. You spend the rest of the story analyzing all the events of the summer, trying to comprehend why Kidd pushes Devon off the cliff. Then you reach the climax and the entire fictional world you created in your head is suddenly turned upside down and nothing seems real. To find out what mind-blowing twist de la Peña writes about, you must of course read the story for yourself.
De la Peña creates such realistic characters that young readers can relate to, you almost think that they are real people. I expect that if I traveled to Cardiff by the Sea, I would find the campsite where Kidd worked and Olivia stayed during their summer. Perhaps I could speak to Kidd and hear his justification for brutally pushing Devon off the cliff. Sadly, Kidd is only fictional, but the entire novel unravels the mystery of why Kidd pushes Devon off the cliff in order to “save” Olivia.
The down sides to reading the novel? Well for starters, you will have an empty feeling when you are finished. The empty feeling is the one you may get after spending the entire story designing and creating the fictional world of Cardiff by the Sea in your head, you will wish the story could continue. You may feel exhausted after reading the book. After all, you just lived several lives in the matter of a few short hours.
Despite all these downsides, I fully expect every one reading this blog to be running to their local library to pick up their own intriguing and nail-biting copy of I Will Save You.