In Into the Beautiful North, Nayeli, a young woman, has noticed that there are very few men living in her town. They have all gone north to find work and perhaps a better life. This has left her town in a vulnerable position against the bandidos. After watching the movie The Magnificent Seven, she decides to head north to America to recruit her own group to protect the town. Yoloxochitl, Vampi and Tacho, her three friends, accompany her on this journey north. Nayeli also has another mission: to track down and hopefully bring back her father, who travelled north and left his family behind. The trips isn't without its trials and tribulations, but the group is determined to succeed.
I adored this book. It's a wonderful novel about friendship, love, betrayal, discovery and so much more. I love learning about different cultures, but haven't read much about Mexicans or Mexico before. This book was a real eye-opener for me. Urrea shows us the lives of illegal Mexicans as they attempt to cross the border into the United States and travel under the radar. When Nayeli and Tacho were travelling across the country, it was interesting to see and experience America through their eyes. I also loved how Urrea introduced the phonetic pronunciations of some of the difficult names. Without his help for Nayeli (nah/YELL/ee) and Yoloxochitl (YO-low/SO-sheet), I would have been lost.
There were quite a few surprises in the book for me. I was very surprised at the outcome La Osa's and Chava's interviews. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that. I was also surprised by the way the legal Mexicans treated Nayeli and Tacho. I guess it made some sense, but I didn't expect it. I was also struck by the absurdity of process when the guard asks Tacho if he's going to cross the border again after being caught the first time. Tacho replies "Yes" to which the Border Patrol says, "All right. See you next week".
The book is filled with fantastic characters. Nayeli was a brave young woman who took matters into her own hands to save her town and get her father back. She seemed vulnerable at times, but had great leadership abilities. Besides Nayeli, my favourite character was Tacho. He made me laugh so many times throughout the book. I won't forget him anytime soon. I also loved the Atómiko and the couple, Doña Araceli and Don Porfirio, who took in the group and shared what they had even though they had so little themselves.
The next time I see President Obama or an American news program talking about illegal aliens and securing the borders, I'll definitely be thinking of Nayeli and her friends. I'll remember that they were good people with honourable intentions. People first, illegal second.
Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by Urrea.
For more information about this book, please visit Hachette Book Group's website.
Want to read other reviews? Here's a one from Heather at Books and Quilts.