The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez, by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

The Secret Story of Sonia RodriguezWhat a ride! I fully expected this book to have the usual stereotyped narrative found in most stories about minorities. What I found instead was a believable, humorous, candid and well-thought novel.

Sonia is  a high school student who wants to be the first one in her very large Mexican family to graduate. This, however, is almost an impossible task. Being the eldest daughter, she is in charge of changing diapers, cleaning the house, cooking–she is a Cinderella who barely gets five hours of sleep between her duty to her family and school. Though she loves her family, she resents how they, except her younger siblings who are still in development and her father, insist on becoming Mexican stereotypes. After a series of unfortunate events, Sonia meets a decent boy she desperately wants to stay away from, is sent on a trip to Mexico to get in touch with her roots, almost drops out of school, and makes a great sacrifice when it seems all hope is lost.

Essentially, that’s what this book is about: hope. By confessing her secrets, Sonia hopes to prove wrong the stereotypes featuring lazy, drunk and irresponsible Mexicans and give the readers a different perspective. However, Sonia is not a naive little girl. She also recognizes that some people do fall into the stereotype, including her drunk, lazy uncle she secretly calls “drunkle”.

There are simply too many good qualities about this novel for me to talk about in a blog, but I’ll focus on one good quality and one aspect of the story I thought was a bit hard to swallow, since I really don’t have any significant complaints about this novel.

1. Multiple perspectives: Though Sonia is the main character, the story is rich with other characters who lead distinct lives and are not what they seem at first glance. The dialogue is sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, but there is always allusion to hope.

2. The boyfriend:  The only character I thought was exaggerated is Sonia’s love interest. He is a Salvadorian who is sickeningly sweet. I dreaded the possibility of this sub-plot taking over the main story, but thankfully it never does. This character was probably introduced to give the main character some relief from her harsh reality, but he’s simply too “Prince Charming” for my tastes. On the plus side, Sonia resists temptation and although she flails for a moment and wishes to be rescued, in the end it is she who rescues everyone.

I highly recommend this book and am interested in knowing what you thought of it. However, I must warn potential readers that sometimes the language is graphic and there are subjects that are not suitable for the little eyes.

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