The Improbable Rise of Paco Jones

Written by Dominic Carrillo

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A very well-written novel that traces the experiences of a Mexican-American eighth grader struggling to fit into an exclusive private school and falling in love for the first time. Paco Jones is taunted by his classmates as Taco Jones; he is unattractive, nonathletic, uncool and poor. Paco’s biracial parents are determined to see that their son has a chance of success and struggle to give him a good education. Paco wants to gain the acceptance of his peers and please his parents. To complicate his situation further, Paco falls desperately in love with a black girl named Naomi, who is dating Trent, one of the popular jocks at school. When Naomi becomes impressed with Paco’s intelligence and honesty; she takes him into her confidence and reveals her true feelings about Trent. Strangely enough, Trent also enlists Paco’s help in his effort to woo Naomi. Paco becomes trapped between his two friends, and almost gets expelled in the process. Despite the trouble in which Paco finds himself, he remains true to his principles revealing his real character.

This tale deals with many issues that young adult readers face. Paco faces racial discrimination, economic insecurity, first love issues and parental child responsibilities. He winds his way through a myriad of difficulties, only to find out that there is not always a simple solution or a rosy ending. Characters are well- developed multicultural, and multidimensional; readers empathize with Paco, find a strong female role model in Naomi, and discover the strengths and flaws in others like Trent and Mr. Holiday. As a bonus, the author/teacher provides discussion questions that align with the US common core standards. This book also provides a flashback for adult readers who may have forgotten those turbulent junior high days. Recommended for readers age twelve and older.

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