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Book cover of He Forgot to Say Goodbye

He Forgot to Say Goodbye

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 321
Paperback
ISBN: 9781416994343






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Overview of He Forgot to Say Goodbye


"I mean, it's not as if I want a father. I have a father. It's just that I don't know who he is or where he is. But I have one."

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don't appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called "Dizzy Land." His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother's shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

San Antonio Express-News wrote, "Benjamin Alire Sáenz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture, and a generation"; that is proven again in this beautifully crafted novel.

Synopsis of He Forgot to Say Goodbye

"I mean, it's not as if I want a father. I have a father. It's just that I don't know who he is or where he is. But I have one."

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don't appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called "Dizzy Land." His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother's shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

San Antonio Express-News wrote, "Benjamin Alire Sáenz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture, and a generation"; that is proven again in this beautifully crafted novel.

Publishers Weekly

Setting this wise and trenchant coming-of-age story in El Paso, Tex., Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) alternates between two teenage narrators from very different backgrounds who nonetheless share the same disfiguring pain-their fathers walked out on them years ago. Soft-spoken Ramiro Lopez is the responsible son of a hardworking single mother, a role that intensifies when his bitter younger brother overdoses on heroin; Ram's high school is next door to that of combative Jake Upthegrove, who's disgusted with his mother and stepfather's shallow, materialistic values. As the characters endure traumatic events (Jake catches his stepfather in an affair; the overdose leaves Ram's brother brain-dead), the author shows them developing redemptive friendships-all the while preserving their highly individuated voices. The protagonists and their friends seem so real and earn the audience's loyalty so legitimately that it will be hard for readers to part from them. Ages 12-up. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author, Benjamin Alire Saenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an American Book Award-winning author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. His first novel for young adults, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  His second novel for teens, He Forgot to Say Goodbye won the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award and the Southwest Books Award (Border Regional Librarians Association) and was a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. A former Wallace E. Stegner Fellow in poetry, Sáenz is a professor in the creative writing department at University of Texas, El Paso.

Reviews of He Forgot to Say Goodbye

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly

Setting this wise and trenchant coming-of-age story in El Paso, Tex., Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) alternates between two teenage narrators from very different backgrounds who nonetheless share the same disfiguring pain-their fathers walked out on them years ago. Soft-spoken Ramiro Lopez is the responsible son of a hardworking single mother, a role that intensifies when his bitter younger brother overdoses on heroin; Ram's high school is next door to that of combative Jake Upthegrove, who's disgusted with his mother and stepfather's shallow, materialistic values. As the characters endure traumatic events (Jake catches his stepfather in an affair; the overdose leaves Ram's brother brain-dead), the author shows them developing redemptive friendships-all the while preserving their highly individuated voices. The protagonists and their friends seem so real and earn the audience's loyalty so legitimately that it will be hard for readers to part from them. Ages 12-up. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen

Two boys attend geographically adjacent schools but come from different worlds. Ramiro Lopez and his younger brother are being raised by a working-class Mexican American mother in the poor part of town and attending Thomas Jefferson High School. Jake Upthegrove's mom and step-father give him everything he wants and more, but expect him to pursue medical studies after finishing at the Silva Magnet School. The key trait they share—and eventually learn about each other—is that their fathers left early in their lives and never looked back. Ram has never even heard from his father. Jake's father occasionally sends money to his mom, but never writes, calls or acknowledges him in any meaningful way. Jake is mad; he has to go to anger management counseling after punching a guy. His mom misses the irony of the fact that she is outraged over the incident and her response is to slap Jake when she's upset. Ram is pretty happy, except he constantly thinks about his missing father and worries about his brother, Tito, who steals to buy drugs and is mad at everyone. Ram's friend, Alejandra, thinks she's in love with him and Ram wishes she were not. They have grown up together in the neighborhood, and she is also in a single-parent household, although it was her mother that left. The story is told by Ram and Jake in alternating, short chapters spiced up with youthful lingo. Both boys are developing strong moral values about right and wrong, and the reader really comes to care about these young people as they struggle to let go of their lingering resentment over their father's abandonment and to find their way in a world still governed by class-based prejudices. This would be an excellent bookfor teens dealing with similar issues or to initiate classroom discussions about social class and prejudice. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.

Kirkus Reviews

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove, teenage residents of El Paso, Texas, voice their anguish at growing up without their biological fathers. By default, Ramiro assumes the head-of-the-house role while mentoring his drug-addicted younger brother. Jake erupts with sarcasm and anger due to the tension and frustration of being without adult male guidance, placing him in constant conflict with his needy mother. Contrasting the two lives-Ramiro's in the barrio and Jake's among the upper-middle-class-the narrative reveals the challenges both boys face while growing into manhood. Their first-person accounts alternate, a style that makes the prose read like an oral testimony or a confession. There are poignant moments throughout the story, but dated slang will alienate teen readers: Jake repeatedly says, "Can you dig it," and "It destroyed me." Many conflicts and plot tangents clutter the boys' narratives, causing the work to ramble on far too long to maintain teen interest. Still, this is one of the few young-adult novels offering a realistic portrayal of life along the southern border. (Fiction. YA)

From the Publisher


"He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a beautiful, powerfully moving story with three absolutely unforgettable teen characters. Sáenz has done a remarkable job of creating two memorably idiosyncratic voices that just - well - detroyed me! Effen brilliant!" - Michael Cart, former president of YALSA and ALAN

"Sáenz's skill with language is such that it makes me as a reader slow down to savor the sentences...Many readers will see themselves in these two young men who manage to confront the demons in their lives and survive." - Teri Lesesne, professor, Sam Houston State University

"He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a story about what it is to become a man...I have, in fact, now spent a lot of quality time with Ramiro and Jake and can say that this one is right up there with my all-time favorite YAs." - Richie Partington, Richie's Picks

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