Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Release Date: 3/1/2010
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About the Book: Poncho is alone after loosing his mother, father and now his sister, so he finds his new home at St. Anthony's. Poncho isn't planning on staying long-he doesn't believe the reports that his sisters death was from natural causes and is bent on finding her killer. But while at St. Anthony's, Poncho is assigned to assist D.Q., a teen with cancer who is writing a "Death Warriors Manifesto" which will help him in his final days and maybe win the love of Marisol. As Poncho gets to know D.Q. more he finds himself caught between revenge or becoming a Death Warrior and embracing life.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: So I liked the author's first teen book Marcelo and the Real World well enough, but it wasn't my favorite and I didn't know how much teen appeal it really had. I ended up trying The Last Summer of Death Warriors on audiobook and it worked very well for me as an audiobook (I wasn't as bored with it as I was during parts of Marcelo), but again I found myself wondering about the teen appeal. I think Death Warriors works best for teens who might think they're "too old" for YA and there's nothing high brow enough for them to read or adults who look down on YA books. That's not to say other YA readers won't enjoy it, I just think it has an older appeal to it. I did think this one was more accessible than the author's previous YA novel, so points for that.
I found the story for Death Warriors to be engaging, but part of me wonders if that was due to the audibook narration-I really liked the way the narrator brought the story to life. I also liked D.Q. and his thoughts on life and his Death Warrior Manifesto. There's even a passage about D.Q.'s thoughts on religion (page 109 if you're interested) that I've shared with people because I thought it was brilliantly written.
What bothered me about this book was the fact that it starts out with one story, Poncho wanting revenge on his sister's killer, but then goes into another plot with D.Q. and the two don't always connect. There were times I forgot about Poncho's quest for revenge and it felt like we left that storyline alone and it was almost jarring when we came back to it. That aspect of the plot wasn't as fleshed out as I would have liked it to be and there were times we hadn't read anything about it in a good while, so when it appeared again it felt out of place. So that took away a lot of my enjoyment because I felt there were times the two plots didn't connect as smoothly as they could have.
My other gripe with this book is a minor one, but I'm going to bring it up anyway. We learn in the beginning of the story that Poncho's sister had sex before she died, but Poncho didn't even know she was seeing someone and can't believe his sister would do that (his sister has some sort of mental handicap and Poncho didn't think his sister kept secrets like that from him). There's a point when Poncho is talking about sex and he says "...do more sex things to her." "Sex things"-really? Poncho is about 17, so I would think he'd be more mature than say "sex things" and I think the teens who read this book would be able to handle it. It just felt immature for the character and the book and really took me out of the book and annoyed me. Like I said, a minor gripe, but one that ended up sticking with me because I thought the phrasing was just so strange.
Overall, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is a decent read and I would recommend it on audio. The narrator made the story compelling and I finished listening to it in two days because it held my interest. It's not just a story about death, but about philosophy, race, and life. Will it be on the Printz list this year? Maybe-in some ways it strikes me as a typical award book that adults love and teens not so much. In some ways it reminded me of last year's winner Going Bovine (another one I enjoyed largely due to the audiobook-maybe I need to read philosophical books on audio??) The discussion of life and death and philosophy makes this a good read alike to Going Bovine I think, although Death Warriors is not nearly as quirky.
Book Pairings: Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Marcelo and the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Full Disclosure: Reviews from audibook I purchased from Audible