Until I Find Julian

Until I Find Julian
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Release Date
September 08, 2015
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Newbery Honor–winning author Patricia Reilly Giff tells a vivid, contemporary story about a remarkable boy who risks everything for his family and a bold girl who helps him. At home in Mexico, Mateo knows where he belongs: with Mami, Abuelita, little brother Lucas, and big brother Julian. When Julian leaves to work in el Norte, the United States, Mateo misses him. And when the family stops hearing from Julian, Mateo knows he has to find his beloved brother. With only his old notebook and a backpack, Mateo heads for the border, where dangers await: robbers, and the border police, who will send him back home or perhaps even put him in prison. On his journey, Mateo meets Angel, a smart, mysterious girl who can guide his crossing. Angel is tough; so is Mateo, and his memories of his loving family sustain him. Because no matter what happens, he can’t go home until he finds Julian.

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A Fresh Look at the Hero's Journey
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In Patricia Reilly Giff’s new book, UNTILL I FIND JULIAN, Mateo’s older brother Julian leaves their small town in Mexico for North America and employment opportunities. When the letters and money stop, Mateo knows that something terrible has happened to his brother, so he sets off alone to cross the border to find his brother.

Right away I had some issues with the plausibility of this story. Mateo is young, very young. His grandmother sees him leave in the middle of the night and, rather than stop him from making the journey, she encourages him to go. I felt as if that weakened the overall plot of the novel with Mateo crossing the dangerous desert alone and an adult willingly allowing him to do so. If this book had been marketed as an urban fantasy or magical realism, I would have felt more comfortable suspending my belief in this regard.
I did enjoy how Patricia Reilly Giff mixed Mateo’s written account, combining it with his present narrative, for a very creative story. Again, I do feel that it might be confusing for readers with the magical vibe that this story ultimately gives off.

Mateo is a prime example of the hero’s journey as he struggles to cross the border and navigate a new country on his own. He is even accompanied by a young girl, Angel, who has street smarts enough for them both. Angel helps Mateo survive and Mateo helps Angel find a place she belongs. Their relationship was a perfect representation of grade school friendship in all its ups and downs, but it wasn’t until over halfway through this book that I was positive Angel was indeed a real girl and not a figment of Mateo’s imagination.

As a long-time fan of Giff’s writing, I know that she is not afraid to experiment with different stories and styles. It prepared me a little for this departure from her previous books. This story is a creative look at the Hero’s Journey and perfect for younger audiences who are beginning to explore differing cultures and writing styles.
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