review: Summer of the Death Warriors

title: Last Summer of the Death Warriors
author: Francisco X. Stork
publisher: Scholastic, April, xx10
main character: Pancho Sanchez
When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony’s Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he’ll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister’s killer. But then he’s assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his “Death Warrior’s Manifesto,” which will help him to live out his last days fully–ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister’s murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q. said she would be;
and he is inexorably drawn to a decision: to honor his sister and her death, or embrace the way of the Death Warrior and choose life

source: Scholastic

I became a fan of Francisco Stork when I read Marcelo in the Real World thus eagerly anticipated reading Last Summer of Death Warriors. When Pancho met D.Q. at the orphanage and D.Q began speaking of their destiny, I immediately called to mind A Prayer for Owen Meaning and I prepared for a fantastic read. I wish I’d never made that connection because it ruined the book for me by building expectations that were never met. I finished the book finding no significance in the outcome because it just didn’t hit the level I expected. Certainly, D.Q. and Marisol had an impact on decisions that impacted Pancho’s future but how did Pancho affect D.Q.? And, what was so wonderful about Marisol?

D.Q. spoke as if there were forces that brought him and Pancho together, but those forces never materialized in the story. We were led to believe Marisol would on some level be astounding but her character was so slightly developed that she simply served to excite two teenage boys.

Even with those criticisms, I give the book an overall positive review.Again, my problems with the book came from a connection I wish I hadn’t made.  D.Q. and Pancho were superbly developed as we watched each of them struggle with issues of death. I could easily understand what motivated their actions but couldn’t necessarily predict their actions. As a story about two boys coming of age as death warriors, this one delivers.

disclosure: I borrowed this copy from my school library