"Everyone is separated." Return to la malvada, or try his luck on his own? For 12-year-old Santiago, going back to his abusive abuela leaves him with no choice at all. At a loss as to his next move, he finds an opportunity when he meets a young mother named María Dolores and her small daughter, Alegría, on their way to el otro lado. For María Dolores, a new life on the other side means fleeing from a troubled past, and Santiago heads with them to El Norte. After a brief stop in a town full of treacherous coyotes and los pollos at their mercy, the three Mexican refugees cross the border and embark on an arduous trek over a barren mountain range, with the desert heat slowly chipping away at their lives. Close to death, the trio falls into the clutches of U.S. immigration officers. Separated from his newfound family, Santi must now navigate life at a youth immigration detention center. It's here that Santiago's story delves into an uncomfortable and bleak modern reality: one where children are held captive at underfunded, psychologically scarring detention centers. With unflinching conviction, Diaz sketches a frank, brief account of refugee youth in an uncaring bureaucratic system, where hope comes in glimpses and family separation becomes the norm. The author's cleareyed, compassionate writing serves as a much-needed wake-up call to readers. . . . An urgent mirror for troubling times. (author's note, resources, further reading, glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)–Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW* "March 1, 2020"