Mr.G's Reviews > The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Sitomer
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's review
Jul 12, 2010

really liked it

Everyone should read these books by Lynwood high school English teacher Alan Lawrence Sitomer.
Writing about characters I imagine he works with every day, Sitomer has built a compelling series that I can't imagine anyone disliking.

In The Hoopster, we encounter Andre Anderson, an extremely talented basketball player and aspiring journalist. When Andre is asked to write a column on race, he examines his community, (a place some might call South Central), and his relationship to his best friend, a white guy. The publication of his column has dramatic implications and changes his life forever.

In Hip Hop High School, we meet Andre's little sister Theresa. Theresa (or Tee-ay) is a more ordinary high school girl, dealing with peer pressure, relationship drama, difficult classes, and a secret dream of attending USC. The books follows Theresa's life and development as a person from her sophomore to her senior year.

Homeboyz is about Andre and Theresa's little brother Teddy. This story is perhaps the most "hardcore" of the three as it deals with the gritty realities of gangbanging and gang culture in Los Angeles.

Which brings me to Sitomer's fourth book, The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez. Sonia is a marginal character from Hip Hop High School in which she serves as Theresa's best friend (and sole hispanic character.) Remarkably, Secret Life follows the exact timeline as Hip Hop High School, casting many of the same events but through the eyes of Sonia.

Sonia's life seems incredibly hard to understate the case, yet is probably pretty common. As she is painfully aware, her family exemplifies every stereotype of the Mexican family out there: too many kids, dad working 18 hour days, lazy pot-smoking brothers with criminal tendencies, oppressive gender roles, etc. Sonia is astonishingly focused on being "La Primera", the first person in the family to graduate high school. But the obstacles in her life make it seem impossible. While reading this book, I at times wanted to kill every member of her family. When she is forced to visit her grandmother in Mexico in order "to get her mind right," Sonia makes some deep realizations about her own identity and true responsibilities. This was hard to read, but harder to put down.
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