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Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,553 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. We meet the girls on the eve of their senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, and all four want to live the American dream, but only two have documents. As the girls attempt to make it into college, they disc ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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Clif Hostetler
This book takes the hot button issue of illegal immigration and examines it up close and personal, from every side including inside and out. The author describes the lives and experiences of four girls of Mexican heritage from high school through college; Two lack legal status, the other two have papers (i.e. legal and have path toward citizenship). The book also covers the surrounding political environment of 2005 through 2009 in Denver, Colorado when the illegal immigration issue exploded beca ...more
Nov 18, 2013 Gary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sucks. Poorly written. If repetition is the award of the day this author gets top honors. I am only half way through this book, trudging my way through it.....and to be honest, it makes me less sympathetic,and less interested in illegal aliens due to the poor writing this is. It is a bookclub choice,and we will be discussing this on the upcoming Friday. I will have to refrain from saying much ;I hate it so much. I doubt I will seriously change my mind when I finish this. It's a road through hell ...more
Apr 04, 2010 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone interested in exploring the issues around illegal immigration
Recommended to K by: M
In “Just Like Us,” Helen Thorpe attacks the complicated issue of illegal immigration from a variety of angles. Primarily, she focuses on the lives of four motivated young girls of Mexican background – two legal (one U.S.-born, one carrying a bona fide green card), two illegal – struggling to finish college in an attempt to better their situations. The two illegal girls came over the border from Mexico with their parents at a young age, and are reaping the consequences in terms of inability to ge ...more
May 13, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism
I was pleasantly drawn into this true story of the four (really, three) girls, struggling from high school to college graduation here in Denver. As illegal immigrants, they face what so many of my students face, and their plight makes the struggle that I faced, as a teacher of those students while they were in middle school, that much more real. Of course most illegal students will see their lives as educational dead ends; it's amazing that these students did not. Illegal immigrants, especially ...more
Richard Conlin
Feb 27, 2010 Richard Conlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in American life
When I hear a book is 'heartbreaking' I am usually pretty leery of it -- suspect it is overly sentimental or maudlin. But that word sometimes applies to this deeply engrossing account of four Latina teenagers growing up in Denver. The insight into adolescence in contemporary Latina society alone might be an interesting story, but the kicker is that they have very different immigration status, and that makes huge differences in what these four bright ambitious girls can do. If you do not have leg ...more
Sandy Guire
Nov 18, 2013 Sandy Guire rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book did make me aware of a lot of the complexities of immigration issues and some of the politics behind those issues. That being said, this book was absolutely painful to read. Had it not been something we are going to discuss in book club, I am not sure I would have finished the book. Clearly, being a journalist does not necessarily mean that will make a person a good author.

I found early parts of the book difficult to follow, as the timeline was not linear. The author chose to insert in
I liked the biography aspect of the book, and the author's attempt to help us understand what it feels like to be a Mexican immigrant (documented and not)in America today, but I finished feeling unsatisfied. First, it struck me as highly improbable that all the girls received full scholarships to excellent schools. I think that the author's involvement in their lives must have caused some of that to happen (good for the girls, not so realistic for most immigrant kids). The author tried very hard ...more
Jan 10, 2013 JoBeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a few books like Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America and A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League that I feel everyone in the United States needs to read to understand the political and social complexities and challenges of this country. Just Like Us is one of those books. Helen Thorpe follows the lives of four Mexican born high school girls for five years; two of them are documented, two undocumented. She writes about their lives in th ...more
Nov 19, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helen Thorpe does a masterful job of capturing the complexities of the immigration debate in America today. As a Denver native, a DPS high school graduate (the same school as the girls in the book in fact) and a University of Denver graduate, I saw many of my friends in this book. I was in my last year at DU when these girls started their freshmen year and while I don't know them personally, I know many people that have had to struggle with the same issues of identity and uncertainty. I know of ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Liralen rated it liked it
In Just Like Us, Thorpe follows a small group of Mexican(-American) girls through their last years of high school in the U.S. and into college. Ostensibly, there are four girls in the focus—two of whom are documented and two of whom are not—but in practical terms, one girl drops off the radar when her path diverges somewhat from that of the other three.

To complicate the story, though, Thorpe pulls back to look at immigration reform—mostly in Colorado, where the girls are based, but also in the U
Jane Dugger
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This was another choice for my office’s equity and social justice book club. I’m really happy that it was picked, as it covers the topic of immigration to the US. Specifically, it focuses on the challenges those without documentation face as they make their way out of high school and try to figure out what options are available. I think I would have preferred a book written by one of these women, though, which factors into my three-star rating.

Author Ms. Thorpe is a journalist who was also marri
Sep 26, 2012 Shana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At my mother’s urging, I finally read Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America, by Helen Thorpe (who just happens to be married to Mayor Hickenlooper of Denver). According to my mother, this is her top non-fiction pick of 2009, and it’s easy to see why. The writing is good, the story is compelling, and it’s on a thought-provoking topic.

Thorpe spends several years in close contact with four Mexican girls living in the Denver area. Two of the girls are legally in
Kate Lawrence
My awareness of the immigration issue had not, before I read this book, extended to what it must be like for the teenage children of undocumented workers. These young people, like two of the four girls profiled here, are prevented by their illegal status from getting driver's licenses, obtaining health insurance, traveling by air, applying for college scholarships or qualifying for in-state tuition or work-study programs, and ultimately, after they are out of college, from getting good jobs for ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thorpe's book offers a broad, yet deep, perspective on the immigration issue through the personal stories of four Mexican girls: two documented, two undocumented. The details about the four girls' lives are illuminating, frustrating, compelling. As one of the blurbs on the back of the book says, the immigration debate would be vastly different if more people were to read this book or ones like it.

Thorpe focuses a lot on the two girls who are undocumented: Marisela and Yadira. They defy the stere
Jun 09, 2011 Chivon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, I wasn't sure what to expect other than what the title suggested, but based on the title I thought the girls were the only subject of the book. I was surprised to find out that the whole legal issue of immigration, immigration policy, and a horrific tragedy involving a Denver police officer were also central to the whole book.

During the middle of the book I got somewhat bored of all the legislative type of stuff. I felt that the book focused at times too much on that a
Jan 22, 2016 Alla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an eye-opener for me. I have never given much thought to how life is different for people who came to the United States illegally and are, therefore, undocumented. I have not been aware of such impediments as not being able to travel by plane, or carrying a fake ID, or not getting timely medical care. It seems especially unfair that young people who were brought here by their parents and grew up in the United States have to live this way.
The book spotlights four girls and their ex
Marisela, Yadira, Clara, and Elissa met author Helen Thorpe while they were in high school in Denver, Colorado. Each of the girls came from families who had emigrated from Mexico. In addition, each had at least one parent who had entered the U.S. without a visa. The girls had lived almost their entire lives in the U.S. Two of them had acquired legal documentation, while two had not. Ms. Thorpe developed a close relationship with these bright, ambitious young women as they approached graduation a ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 Stars

Although meticulously researched, I found that I was slogging through this book. Thorpe followed four young Mexican women from their senior year in high school through their undergraduate careers in Colorado. Although their stories were very interesting, the whole reading experience is weighed down by excessive and unnecessary detail lessening the impact. She is reluctant to leave out a single detail while painting a portrait of the larger political climate concerning undocumented and i
Rebecca Cohen
My friend Sarah recommended this book to me. It was quite good and easy to read. The protagonists of the book were wonderful. You were definitely rooting for them the whole time. It also offers a fascinating look into the practical day to day difficulties that exist for those without status in the U.S. Though, I found the author, the Mayor's wife, to be irritating. I especially got annoyed with her at the end of the book when she made these distinctions between Americans and Mexicans that were b ...more
May 02, 2011 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and found it so interesting. Author Thorpe set out to write about the American experience of four Mexican high school girls living in Denver, two of whom were legal and two were here illegally. Each girl was high achieving and wanted to attend college.

As the author followed these girls, she herself got pulled into the story. Her husband became mayor of Denver (Hickenlooper). A Denver cop was murdered by an illegal. Tom Tancredo ran for US president. Although the author did sho
Jan 07, 2013 Evelin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marisela,Yadira, Elissa,and Clara four girls chasing a dream. Marisela and Yadira facing a obstacle of not having the opportunity as the other two girls of having a education . All of this girls having the same fear that one day they are going to be separate from the most important persons in their life's. Every day they wake up they have to fight agains all does obstacles they face every day and they have to fight against what other say about them . Marisela, Yadira,Elissa, and Clara fighting f ...more
Sep 03, 2012 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OMG, I hated this book. And I was the one who recommended it for our book club. I was hoping it would open my mind to the intricacies of the plight of illegal aliens. It was supposed to be written in a non-bias format, but I found the author, Helen Thorpe – the wife of the democratic mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper – was anything but. We get to see our broken legal system at work, how illegal aliens get assistance to go to college – in essence taking the spots of our own American students. Sh ...more
Jan 24, 2013 Rae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this for my History Colorado book group. I highly recommend. Tells the story of four girls in Denver, best friends, graduating from high school and through their college years. All are from Mexican families. One was born in the U.S.; she's "legal." One came to the U.S. as a small child and eventually got her green card. The other two are "illegal." One came when just a few months old, the when she was seven. How their legal status affects their lives, the lives of their families is a true e ...more
Jan 20, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an eye-opening book about the struggles facing four Mexican girls who were brought to the United States when they were small children. Two have papers, two are undocumented. For the two undocumented girls, it shows the heartbreaking obstacles they must fight to overcome just to have a future, all because of choices made for them when they were small children. And the pain and hopelessness they must endure because they have no legal way to get a green card. This book provides human faces ...more
Feb 17, 2012 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommendations
This really is a great book to read to understand the human-side of the immigration debate. It could have been better if Thorpe inserted some more facts and data about immigration in general, but I think the book is very thought-provoking as it is. The book takes place in the mid-2000s and, unfortunately, it is just as relevant and topical today.
Bea Elwood
May 24, 2011 Bea Elwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
This was one of those books you wanted to finish because you wanted to know what happened to these wonderful people, like good friends I want an update on how they are doing. Seriously thinking about buying a copy for everybody I work with...
Jo Shander
Mar 09, 2010 Jo Shander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Great topic.
Nicole (Reading Books With Coffee)
I really liked Just Like Us.  We see 4 girls who are very much affected by immigration policies- 2 are legal citizens, and 2 are undocumented.  It highlights how hard it is to become a citizen, and how hard it is to come here legally. It doesn't go into a lot of depth the entire process, but you get a glimpse of what it's like to be undocumented, and how difficult it is to become a citizen.

All 4 girls were in limbo, and they all have one foot in each world.  I felt for them, because they never a
I just watched a Harris hawk come into a tree in my backyard to feed its 3 fledglings. Such a todo. One of the three beat the other two to the parent and got the bounty. It then created a tent around that food (this is called mantling) keeping the others away while it gorged itself. This reminded me of the underlying theme of this book. People from a poor country come by hook or by crook to a rich country to improve their lot. Many of the people in the rich country want to mantle the country. We ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Helen Thorpe is a freelance journalist whose magazine stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York , George, Westword, and 5280.

Born in London, she grew up in Medford, New Jersey. She has worked as a staff writer for The New York Observer; The New Yorker,
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