Young Adult

MYSTERY:  In Verona, California tempers have flared between the growers and laborers. Laborers are fighting for higher pay and better working conditions, and the growers seem unsympathetic. A young activist by the name of Carrie has worked tirelessly for the laborers. When she mysteriously dies in an explosion, her younger sister Salem is convinced it was not an accident. No one believes Salem – not even her father, who is a grower and employs laborers on his farm. Was there indeed a conspiracy, or was the explosion simply an accident?

Salem is a sixteen year old who is devastated by the death of her sister. She is well aware of the dissension between the growers and laborers and is shocked when she learns there are Hispanic gangs involved. Even more shocking is her discovery that Cordero, her study mate in a classroom mock-trial project, is a gang member. Is Cordero evil and involved in Carrie’s death? As she pieces things together, Salem is intent on proving her theory that Carrie’s death is not an accident. Furthermore, she is convinced that a laborer named Juan was murdered as well.

The character development in this book is very good. Once the story hits fifty percent, it falls into place and the pace picks up. The flashbacks are confusing and the whole mock trial project deflected from the story and is a bit unnerving, but overall this is a good look at the conflict that exists between farm laborers and growers. The thought provoking questions posed at the end of the book are a nice added touch! 

Layne Lancaster