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By Vanessa Blakeslee
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Yes, yes, I know, an author has every right in the world to write about characters and situations that are vastly different than their personal life, and it's unfair to disparage a book just because the person who penned it doesn't seem "authentic enough" to get away with it; but that said, it's hard not to read Vanessa Blakeslee's Juventud without constantly thinking about the disparity of the subject in this case, of a white New England academe who's written a hefty novel all from the viewpoint of a teenage Latina girl in Central America, whose life takes a series of dramatic turns because of her father's role in a local drug cartel. I mean, I don't want to give the wrong impression; the book is well-written, and hits all the notes you would want from a solidly constructed three-act novel (and is also, by the way, one of the most beautifully designed books in the history of Curbside Splendor, and Curbside has put out a whole bunch of beautifully designed books over the years). But it's also an overly precious novel in that way you often see from full-time academic writers, a big turnoff for me and a lot of others; and it's also pushing a rather overt political agenda, and I'm not a fan of novels that primarily exist to make a political point. Definitely worth picking up if these things don't bother you, it can also be easily skipped if like me they do.
Out of 10: 7.4, or 8.4 for fans of MFA novels