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Dark Dude

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  688 ratings  ·  146 reviews

He didn't say good-bye. He didn't leave a phone number. And he didn't plan on coming back - ever.

In Wisconsin, Rico could blend in. His light hair and lighter skin wouldn't make him the "dark dude" or the punching bag for the whole neighborhood. The Midwest is the land of milk and honey, but for Rico Fuentes, it's really a last resort. Trading Harlem for Wisconsin, tho
Hardcover, 439 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (first published August 29th 2008)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  688 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, children-ya
Adolescence is tough--you want to be an individual, to find out who you are, to be seen as special and unique, but you also don't want to be too different, to be noticed and hassled--you want to fit in. Your fellow teenagers can be very hard on both themselves and each other. And groups have their own sometimes menacing lives.

Well OK--adults may not admit it, but it's often like that for us too--but somehow it's more intense for an adolescent, especially in the forced and self-contained environm
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Short Review: Dark Dude is something new-- something I wish had been one of many similar books when I was a child. Within its pages, Pulitzer Prize winner Hijuelos introduces a Cuban-American coming of age story that feels honest and relatable.Read more...

I’m no expert on young adult books. In fact, I gave my 15-year-old brother Invisible Man and The Fire Next Time for Christmas last year. They’re books that every young black man should have, but my choice actually reveals that I didn't know of
Book Concierge
Audio book performed by Armando Duran

This is a young-adult novel from the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

Rico Fuentes is a “dark dude” – which means that he is a very-light-skinned Cubano – living in New York City’s Spanish Harlem. Blond, with hazel eyes and freckles, his appearance gets a lot of attention from the tough guys in the neighborhood, who hassle him for being a “whitey.” The fact that he’s slight of build, and prefers books and music to hang
Rose Haertl
Mar 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Rico Fuentes is anything but a ¨dark dude," his light skin and blonde hair separate him from the rest of his dark-skinned Cuban family. He is constantly beat up and bullied for being ¨white" even though he is actually Cuban. High school is tough for him and dealing with his best friend, Jimmy, is even tougher. But when his older friend wins the lottery and decides to move to Wisconsin, Rico decides to escape his New York life and start a fresh, new one on a farm with his best friend Jimm
Catherine  Mustread
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Catherine by: Las Comadres' Book Picks 2009 (August)
Shelves: latino, teen
Cubano teen Rico who looks "white" deals with prejudice in NYC & Wisconsin, and searches for his identity while living as a runaway in Wisconsin after his family decides to send him to a military school. Great hitchhiking roadtrip description and interesting observations about the differences between life in NYC and a farm in Wisconsin. Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos writes a realistic novel about coming of age, life decisions, relationships w ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dark dude is a very interesting book i believe that a lot of readers would find this novel very good. It’s remarkable the detail the author of this book puts into his descriptions of his surroundings he really does a great job of making you feel that you are really there. The book takes place in a modern new york city and gradually takes this young man who is not the most popular to wisconsin. Rico Fuentes was his name and he was born with light skin unlike everyone else in his neighborhood in ...more
Ethan Tran
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos focuses on the childhood of Rico Fuentes a Cuban-American growing up in the streets of Harlem, New York. Rico and his drug addict, friend Jimmy try to escape the struggles of New York City. I personally enjoyed this book because it had strong plot and character development. One element of literature that was effective was the characterization. In one chapter Jimmy gave advice to Rico not do drugs because he cared for him too much to let him
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
In New York City, Rico finds himself utterly frustrated because he is too "white" to be accepted by other Latinos, too Cuban to fit in white society, too much of a book nerd for many of his peers, too poor, too lonely, on and on. This sensitive, artistic teenager recognizes his parents' disillusionment and pain, and he feels like his current life will become a dead-end with his only "escape" being a severe enrollment in military school. With his best friend Jimmy, another whose life is painful a ...more
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oscar Hijuelos did an amazing job of writing this book. It has amazing characters and had an amazing meaning (that I will let others figure out after reading the book) The book is beautiful and focuses on finding oneself amongst people that don’t accept you into their group. Rico is a Cubano that is very white and is not accepted in the Cubano community but is not accepted in the American community because he is full Cubano. After running away and being in Wisconsin for a year, he realizes he ne ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Identity is tough to figure out. There's this tension of honoring where you came from while trying to forge your own person simultaneously. It's messy and imperfect, just like we all are, but it's important and life giving when you finally own who you are and all you are capable of being. Thank you, Mr. Hijuelos, for reminding us of the importance of owning where we came from while recognizing who we are!
Cindy Du
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Over the course of the story, there is plenty of character development (and not just for the protagonist Rico). I liked the book due to it having a perfect mix of relatable characters, humor, and plot twists that I was looking for in a YA coming-of-age novel. Oscar Hijuelos's writing style really got my attention from the beginning to the end, and the plot is not a typical overwritten prompt that is seen over and over again. Overall, I would recommend this book.
Will Paglia
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Dark dude gives us an insight into the life a white, blonde haired boy named Rico from Harlem. Drugs and violence inspire him to leave from his hood and travel to Wisconsin with his close friend Roberto. Over the course of the story Rico learns that wherever he travels he cannot escape who he is. This coming of age novel is good for young adult readers. I would recommend it for anyone from 14-25.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a pretty interesting book, following the trials and tribulations of a Cuban-American teenager’s journey from New York to Wisconsin after running away from home. The experiences and evolution of the character - and the friends he surrounds himself with - allowed for your mind to ponder on the path of really finding yourself.
The story was a little scattered for my taste, but it was well-written and I enjoyed it.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark dude is a refreshing read! I have never read anything closer to my own experiences as a Chicano growing up in America. The division , the juggle, and the self doubt one feels when trying to figure out where you fit in-- it's all contained here, inside the store of Rico.

A little nod to Huckleberry Finn seemed a bit overused at times, but overall, I recommend this book to anyone wanting to see a new perspective.
Gato Negro
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and although it was written about a light skinned Cuban American kid from the ghetto, I could unconditionally relate to many of the coming of age moments he experiences in the Midwest. I really enjoyed the book.
Melissa Flores
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved it! It was fun kept me interested! Life is sometimes that way as a kid.. teenager. Sometimes life isn’t fair and we grow up when we go off on our own, misunderstood but loved is key. Having a good friend looking out for you also reminded me of my teen years. Good book. I’d recommend it.
Kate McDougall Sackler
Pleasant coming of age novel about a light-skinned Cuban who runs away from home to a Wisconsin farm to find himself and get his friend off drugs.
2020 reading challenge-a book by an author whose real name(s) you’re not quite sure how to pronounce
Good YA read. Full review to come.
Lisa Cushman
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t put it down. The pace was great and the characters were extremely likable.
July Sandria
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
¿what would you do if you're friend is a heroine addict and you're a punching bag in school? This was the situation that Rico was in. Rico is planning to escape Harlem and go to Wisconsin with his friend jimmy. But the trip is long and hard. Rico goes to his friends Gilberto house who was a big brother to him but won the lottery and went to study in Wisconsin. When Rico gets to Wisconsin he misses his family and Rico is feeling lonely so Gilberto helps Rico to get a job at a gas station as a cas ...more
Kendy Francois
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teenagers
Being a teenager is difficult; you wish to be an individual, find out your identity, be special and unique, but you don’t also to seem different from others alike yourself. You want to be known and fit in society. So what would you do if everyone in your neighborhood or in Harlem treated you like a punk because of your skin color? Would you run away to another department where folks’ skin is similar to your own without any intention of ever returning to your home state? Rico Fuentes explores th ...more
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 06, 2011 rated it liked it
I will like to say that Oscar Hijuelos did a good job in creating a book that make the charters seem realistic and relative-bl. The protagonist of the story is Rico. Rico was born in The United States but his parents are Cuban making him a Hispanic. I'm also Hispanic because i was born in California and my parents are from Mexico. Rico grew up in New York and I grew up in Oakland two cities that have a high crime rate. The settings of the book takes place in New York and then Rico runs away to W ...more
Stanley Clay
Jan 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos maintains his reputation with this lovely coming-of-age tale of a Cuban-American 16-year-old who drops out of school and escapes the mean streets, hopeless educational institutions, and a stifling (if loving) family in late 1960’s Harlem and seeks sanctuary on a friend’s farm in rural Wisconsin.

Teenager Rico Fuentes, our smart and hopeful narrator, is getting hassled from every angle. The son of dark-skinned Cuban immigrants, Rico’s light skin, ligh
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for

How many teens have wished they could escape the darkness of their lives and live in a land of milk and honey? Rico Fuentes does just that in DARK DUDE by Oscar Hijuelos.

Rico is one-hundred-percent Cuban, yet he struggles daily to identify with his Cuban peers. His mom and little sister have brunette hair and cinnamon colored skin. His dad has both dark wavy hair and dark eyes. But Rico, with hazel eyes and fair skin with freckles, looks white. In
Cana Rensberger
Jan 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
How many teens have wished they could escape the darkness of their lives and live in a land of milk and honey? Rico Fuentes does just that in DARK DUDE by Oscar Hijuelos.

Rico is one hundred percent Cuban, yet he struggles daily to identify with his Cuban peers. His mom and little sister have brunette hair and cinnamon colored skin. His dad has both dark wavy hair and dark eyes. But Rico, with hazel eyes and fair skin with freckles, looks white. In Harlem, that pretty much guarantees daily harass
Maria Aenlle
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
In this novel for young readers author Oscar Hijuelos creates a main character named Rico Fuentes, a Cuban-American, to communicate how someone young could deal with issues of self-identity and with ndfficult decision regarding what is right or wrong.

Rico Fuentes is white although his Cuban family is racially mixed (black and white). He confronts prejudice from other Latinos who are not white and from black American youngsters. In the minds of those other youngsters, you cannot be Latino if you
Dana Berglund
Aug 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: youngadult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
YA Book Recommendations
My reaction in one gif:

Full review:
Dark Dude is a novel by a Pulitzer-prize winning author, so it might be strange I was apprehensive about read it, but I was. I thought that perhaps Hijuelos wrote a YA book only because YA sells, rather than for any interest he has in YA. It happens a lot. But I think this book really came from his heart, which is what makes it work.

Set in the 1960s, the book follows the white-looking Cuban Rico, and his decision to move to Wisconsin, following his friend Gilbe
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Unable to deal with the pressure of living in Harlem, the frequent jumpings by just about everyone in his neighborhood because he’s a light-skinned Latino, Rico Fuentes leaves for Wisconsin. Rico can blend in the Midwestern farm country with his light skin so well he’s generally mistaken for a white. It’s just what he needs, and the longer he stays on his friend’s farm, the more he thinks he’ll never go back to New York. But appearances aren’t everything, and even if Rico is mostly enjoying his ...more
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Oscar Hijuelos (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist. He is the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Hijuelos was born in New York City, in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to Cuban immigrant parents. He attended the Corpus Christi School, public schools, and later attended Bronx Community College, Lehman College, and Manhattan Community College before matriculating into and

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