book review: He forgot to say goodbye

book review:  He forgot to say goodbye
author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
date: 2008, Simon and Schuster
main characters: Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove

If I just said this is a superbly wonderful book would you rush out and buy it?

He forgot will remain one of my all time favorites. This review, probably not so good! I just don’t want to mess up Saenz’s story by telling incomplete parts, retold parts. The books is just too good for me to mess it up like that!

How did Saenz manage to tell a story that amazed me so well? I’d say he’s not a writer. I know he’s a poet.

I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, “To the Desert” from Dark and Perfect (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 1995).

And he’s a storyteller.

Saenz grew up speaking Spanish and only later learn English. In learning the language, not just carelessly picking it up, I think he honed it, learning to use it with precision and skill, words like ‘destroyed’ ‘effin’ and ‘achin elbow’ will stay with you when the story is long gone.

Saenz writes about two boys who don’t know their fathers. It’s easy for women, for me, to simply look at the events of the story: one boy learning to trust himself while another learns to respect his mother. But this is really a story of two boys finding a way to accept their fathers, their disappeared fathers. Things start a bit slow as it took a while getting into the rhythm of the writing, but you realize Saenz is writing with a wit and an intelligence not always found in YA literature. These two guys, Ram and Jake, you like them more as you get to know them better. But, Alejandra? Definitely my favorite character!

I walked Alejandra to the car. I got that hint from my mom. You know, I got one of those looks. So I walked her out. “Thanks, ” I said. “You’re really decent.”
She smiled at me. “That’s a pretty good compliment. Coming from you, I mean.”
“Yeah, well, it’s true. You’re really decent.”
“But am I pretty?”
She always went fishing, that Alejandra.
“You’ve always been pretty. And you’ve always known that. I don’t know why you need me to tell you that.”
She laughed. “Figure it out.”
I grinned.
She noticed–but see, I didn’t say anything.
Not quite convinced? Ram’s no good father, the one who he’s never seen? Well, when something tragic happens to Ram’s brother, he has to talk to his dad. You cannot imagine what his dad says!

disclaimer: This book was a Christmas give from Susan.

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4 thoughts on “book review: He forgot to say goodbye

  1. Laura,
    I’m glad the review worked for you! Saenz is such an excellent writer and this is such a well told story!
    Last Night I Sang will be one of my next books to read. I think I’ll link to your review tomorrow.

  2. I need to read this. I loved his other two books. Anyone who reads YA, scratch that anyone who reads fiction and isn’t reading Benjamin Alire Saenz is seriously missing out.

  3. Hey, Edi! Well, you know I didn’t enjoy this book all that much, though I adored Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood. This book had some of the same elements, and Ram was very nearly Sammy’s twin–bookish, sincere, ideal son, somehow attracting female attention without trying…admired by other guys even though he’s not tough or macho…Jake was interesting and highly original but I felt his life/problems didn’t match Ram’s and didn’t warrant taking up half the book–would much rather have seen the book cut into thirds, with Ram, Jake, and ALEJANDRA talking about what a missing parent means to a teen. This author *is* a skilled writer, but I needed a bit more restraint/better editing for this book…guess I now have to read Last Night!

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