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*Starred Review* In his first novel for young adults, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1987) proves himself to be a powerful, adept storyteller for teens. Rico, a Cuban American teen growing up in Harlem in the late 1960s, is tired of working extra jobs to help his family; of the chaos and tragedy at school, where students are so inured to violence that, when classes close after a shooting, they behave like it was suddenly a holiday ; of being hassled for his light skin and hair. When his parents threaten to send him to a military school in Florida, he runs away. Together with his best friend, Jimmy, who has just kicked a heroin habit, Rico hitchhikes to Wisconsin, where Gilberto, an older-brother figure from Harlem, has bought a farm that he shares with several hippie college students. In an unwavering, utterly believable voice, Rico details his midwestern year, in which he adjusts to rural life, falls in love, and pursues his comic-book-writing aspirations. Most of all, though, he searches for a sense of self, ultimately realizing that where you are doesn't change who you are. Frank, gritty, vibrant, and wholly absorbing, Rico's story will hold teens with its celebration of friendship and its fundamental questions about life purpose, family responsibility, and the profound ways that experience shapes identity.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2008 Booklist

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Gr 9 Up-Rico Fuentes, 15, hasn't had an easy life. He spent part of his childhood in a hospital, his mother blames him for her misery, his loving father is a drunk, and, because of his light Cuban skin, he's hassled by peers. With escalating problems at his 1960s New York City school and his friend Jimmy spiraling dangerously out of control because of drugs, Rico decides to run away, taking Jimmy with him. They head for Wisconsin and Gilberto, who's gone off to college and is living on a hippie farm. There, in the "land of milk and honey," Rico saves Jimmy's life and finds acceptance-by others first and, ultimately, of himself. The protracted narrative is by turns sentimental, humorous, and sad, but Hijuelos creates a memorable character who will resonate with readers wrestling with their own identity issues.-Terri Clark, Smokey Hill Library, Centennial, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.