Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/01/2010 *Starred Review* Though the police say that his sister, Rosa, died of natural causes, 17-year-old Pancho Sanchez is convinced she was murdered, and he is looking to exact revenge. With no surviving family (his mother died when he was five, and his father only three months before Rosa), Pancho is placed in an orphanage in Las Cruces, where he meets D.Q., a boy who is dying from a rare form of brain cancer. D.Q. is not just determined to find a cure, he’s also equally set on training Pancho to become what he calls a “Death Warrior.” Together, the unlikely companions embark on a quest to Albuquerque (Stork acknowledges echoes of Don Quixote here), and though they travel for their own reasons, once arrived, each will have to come to terms with what it might actually mean to be a Death Warrior. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World, 2008) has written another ambitious portrait of a complex teen, one that investigates the large considerations of life and death, love and hate, and faith and doubt. Though the writing occasionally tends toward the didactic, this novel, in the way of the best literary fiction, is an invitation to careful reading that rewards serious analysis and discussion. Thoughtful readers will be delighted by both the challenge and Stork’s respect for their abilities. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2010 Gr 8 Up— Orphaned Pancho's 20-year-old mentally disabled sister is found dead in a New Mexico motel room. He meets D.Q., dying of a rare cancer, at a home for boys. D.Q.'s mother, Helen, forces him to undergo experimental chemotherapy, despite the gruesome side effects. Pancho cares for D.Q. during his stay at a Ronald McDonald-type residence. The one bright spot is Marisol, who works there. D.Q. knows that Pancho plans to find and destroy Rosa's killer. He tries to teach his new friend the way of the Death Warrior: only when you love do you truly live. Though Pancho plots the murder methodically, his plan is never believable. This derails the novel considerably and cancels any mystery that might have quickened the pace of the story. However, the New Mexico landscape is vivid and the author explores Anglo/Mexican relations subtly. Stork's characterizations are solid, from D.Q.'s probing intensity to Pancho's silent rage. Female characters are vivid as well, from Helen's passive aggression to Marisol, who displays a soulful intelligence. The narrative is dialogue heavy, but even philosophical conversations between steely Pancho and effusive D.Q. are natural, and often funny.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library - Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2010 Stork’s latest novel since the impressive Marcelo in the Real World (BCCB 4/09) introduces Pancho, a hard-luck teenager who arrives at St. Anthony’s orphanage shortly after the death of Rosa, his sister and last living relative. Consumed with anger over his mentally challenged sister’s death, he swears revenge against the man who shared a hotel room with Rosa in her last hours of life, whom he blames for her death. Pancho is temporarily sidetracked from his mission, however, by his new role as caretaker to D.Q., a boy his age who’s dying of cancer. As Pancho and D.Q. journey to Albuquerque in search for a cure for D.Q., share their days and nights as roommates, and discuss D.Q.’s in-progress Death Warrior Manifesto, they both unexpectedly find meaning in their unwished-for circumstances. Pancho’s anger and hopelessness feel genuine, and he is an easy character both to sympathize with and root for as he grows through the novel. His interactions with the philosophical D.Q. provide the real meat and most intriguing moments of the novel; their journey together is absorbing, and the hot, desolate New Mexico setting provides a fitting backdrop for the novel’s intense emotions. While the sheer number of issues taken on (cancer, prostitution, mental illness, revenge, morality, family, racism, and violence, to name a few) has the potential to overwhelm the storyline, the strong characters center the novel and guide this ultimately engaging and affecting read. Readers will relish the powerful friendship between the two teens and perhaps will even find lessons for their own lives in the rules of the Death Warrior. MH - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.