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We Were Here
Cover of We Were Here
We Were Here
Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Peña's We Were Here is a "fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking" novel [Booklist].
   When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.
    But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.
    Life usually doesn’ t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.
   From the streets of Stockton to the beaches of Venice, all the way to the Mexican border, We Were Here follows a journey of self-discovery by a boy who is trying to forgive himself in an unforgiving world.
"Fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking...The contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked."-Booklist
"This gripping story about underprivileged teens is a rewarding read."-VOYA
"A furiously paced and gripping novel."-Publishers Weekly
"A story of friendship that will appeal to teens and will engage the most reluctant readers."-Kirkus Reviews
An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Readers
An ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Peña's We Were Here is a "fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking" novel [Booklist].
   When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.
    But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.
    Life usually doesn’ t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.
   From the streets of Stockton to the beaches of Venice, all the way to the Mexican border, We Were Here follows a journey of self-discovery by a boy who is trying to forgive himself in an unforgiving world.
"Fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking...The contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked."-Booklist
"This gripping story about underprivileged teens is a rewarding read."-VOYA
"A furiously paced and gripping novel."-Publishers Weekly
"A story of friendship that will appeal to teens and will engage the most reluctant readers."-Kirkus Reviews
An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Readers
An ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.0
  • Lexile:
    770
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 4

Recommended for you

 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • Chapter One May 13

    Here’s the thing: I was probably gonna write a book when I got older anyways. About what it’s like growing up on the levee in Stockton, where every other person you meet has missing teeth or is leaning against a liquor store wall begging for change to buy beer. Or maybe it’d be about my dad dying in the stupid war and how at the funeral they gave my mom some cheap medal and a folded flag and shot a bunch of rifles at the clouds. Or maybe the book would just be something about me and my brother, Diego. How we hang mostly by ourselves, pulling corroded-looking fish out of the murky levee water and throwing them back. How sometimes when Moms falls asleep in front of the TV we’ll sneak out of the apartment and walk around the neighborhood, looking into other people’s windows, watching them sleep.

    That’s the weirdest thing, by the way. That every person you come across lays down in a bed, under the covers, and closes their eyes at night. Cops, teachers, parents, hot girls, pro ballers, everybody. For some reason it makes people seem so much less real when I look at them.

    Anyways, at first I was worried standing there next to the hunchback old man they gave me for a lawyer, both of us waiting for the judge to make his verdict. I thought maybe they’d put me away for a grip of years because of what I did. But then I thought real hard about it. I squinted my eyes and concentrated with my whole mind. That’s something you don’t know about me. I can sometimes make stuff happen just by thinking about it. I try not to do it too much because my head mostly gets stuck on bad stuff, but this time something good actually happened: the judge only gave me a year in a group home. Said I had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how I think. Dude didn’t know I was probably gonna write a book anyways. Or that it’s hard as hell bein’ at home these days, after what happened. So when he gave out my sentence it was almost like he didn’t give me a sentence at all.

    I told my moms the same thing when we were walking out of the courtroom together. I said, “Yo, Ma, this isn’t so bad, right? I thought those people would lock me up and throw away the key.”

    She didn’t say anything back, though. Didn’t look at me either. Matter of fact, she didn’t look at me all the way up till the day she had to drive me to Juvenile Hall, drop me off at the gate, where two big beefy white guards were waiting to escort me into the building. And even then she just barely glanced at me for a split second. And we didn’t hug or anything. Her face seemed plain, like it would on any other day. I tried to look at her real good as we stood there. I knew I wasn’t gonna see her for a while. Her skin was so much whiter than mine and her eyes were big and blue. And she was wearing the fake diamond earrings she always wears that sparkle when the sun hits ’em at a certain angle. Her blond hair all pulled back in a ponytail.

    For some reason it hit me hard right then—as one of the guards took me by the arm and started leading me away—how mad pretty my mom is. For real, man, it’s like someone’s picture you’d see in one of them magazines laying around the dentist’s office. Or on a TV show. And she’s actually my moms.

    I looked over my shoulder as they walked me through the gate, but she still wasn’t looking at me. It’s okay, though. I understood why.

    It’s ’cause of what I did.

    June 1

    I’ll put it to you like this: I’m about ten times smarter...
About the Author-
  • Matt de la Peña is the first Mexican American author to win the Newbery Medal. He attended the University of the Pacific on a basketball scholarship and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at San Diego State University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing. We Were Here is his third novel. Look for his other books, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, I Will Save You, The Living, which was named a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and The Hunted, all available from Delacorte Press. You can also visit him at mattdelapena.com and follow @mattdelapena on Twitter.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 2, 2009
    When Miguel, a high school student from Stockton, Calif.—“where every other person you meet has missing teeth or is leaning against a liquor store wall begging for change to buy beer”—commits an undisclosed crime, he is sentenced to a year in juvenile hall. Despite the efforts of his counselor (who constantly calls him “bro”), a despondent Miguel suffers alone at the group home, reading and scribbling in his journal; his entries provide the novel's narrative. When Mong, a violent fellow resident, plans an escape to Mexico, Miguel and his roommate, Rondell, join him on a tumultuous journey through Southern California and slowly become friends, as Miguel struggles to come to terms with the events that have brought him to this point (“Nah, man, there ain't no such thing as peace no more. That shit's dead and buried”). Miguel's raw yet reflective journal entries give Peña's (Mexican WhiteBoy
    ) coming-of-age story an immersive authenticity and forceful voice. The suspense surrounding the boys' survival and the mystery of Miguel's crime result in a furiously paced and gripping novel. Ages 14–up.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2009
    Gr 9 Up-Miguel struggles to forgive himself for a tragic event that changed his life and his family forever. He willingly accepts his one-year sentence to a juvenile detention center and the requirement that he keep a journal. De La Peña uses the conceit of the journal to tell the story in Miguel's words. At the center, Miguel befriends Rondell, a mentally challenged teen prone to violent outbursts, and Mong, a troubled boy with myriad physical and emotional problems. Mong organizes an escape, and with little apparent thought, Miguel and Rondell agree to join him. The boys' convoluted travels take them up and down the California coast and are recorded in Miguel's journal, along with his personal journey of self-discovery. It is frustrating that the salient event, the one that led to Miguel's incarceration, is kept from readers, and most other characters, until the end of the book. Once the truth of what happened is exposed, it is difficult to comprehend the callousness shown to Miguel by other family members; in fact, readers may question why he was imprisoned at all. The premise of juvenile delinquents on the run, camping out, and trying to survive and to find themselves will appeal to teens, but the story is just too drawn out to hold the interest of most of them."Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA"

    Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 1, 2009
    Grades 7-12 After being sentenced to a year in a California group home, Miguel Casteeda, 16, breaks out with two other teens, Mong and Rondell. Together, they try to cross the border to Mexico, and Miguel writes in his journal about their journey. His colloquial narrative, laced with insults (but not obscenities), is fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking as he describes how the three homeless runaways steal, hide, work, fight, bond, and care for each other. Unlike his mates, Miguel is an avid reader, and with the account of their daily struggle, he weaves in references to classics. There may be too much detail for some, but the contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked, as will the tension that builds from the storys secrets. What did Miguel do that landed him in the group home? Why wont his mother talk to him? The riveting climax shows, without a heavy message, that the heros journey is a search for himself.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2009, American Library Association.)

  • The Horn Book

    January 1, 2010
    Miguel is sentenced to a group home for his crime (under wraps until story's end). Weary of the setting, he and two housemates break out. As the colorful trio journeys through California, wary distrust gives way to true friendship. Miguel's narrative voice coupled with de la Pena's natural storytelling gifts more than compensate for the occasional glitches in plotting and characterization.

    (Copyright 2010 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • The Horn Book

    November 1, 2009
    A judge has sentenced Miguel to a group home for his crime, and he is also required to keep a journal -- this novel -- to chronicle his thoughts and feelings. It doesn't take long for Miguel to weary of the group home in San Jose, and so he and two other housemates, Rondell and Mong, break out with plans to flee to Mexico and live on the beach. Rondell is physically imposing, learning disabled, and deeply religious. Mong is deceptively smart but psychotic and given to wild mood swings. Miguel is streetwise, but sensitive and guilt-ridden. As this colorful trio journeys through California, wary distrust gives way to true friendship, but even as Miguel learns of the other boys' troubled pasts, he keeps his own under wraps until the very end. It's an effective if manipulative ploy, one that keeps readers turning the pages to learn Miguel's ultimate secret; when they do, they may find the punishment too harsh for the crime. Nevertheless, Miguel's narrative voice coupled with de la Pena's natural storytelling gifts compensate for the slow pacing and occasional glitches in plotting and characterization.

    (Copyright 2009 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • -Booklist "Fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking...The contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked."
  • -VOYA "This gripping story about underprivileged teens is a rewarding read."
  • -Publishers Weekly "A furiously paced and gripping novel."
  • -Kirkus Reviews "A story of friendship that will appeal to teens and will engage the most reluctant readers."
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    Random House Children's Books
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