Title: The Closest I’ve Come
Author: Fred Aceves
Genre: Young Adult / Fiction
The Closest I’ve Come centers Marcos Rivas: a sophomore in high school who is just trying to roll with the punches. He lives in a poor neighborhood in Florida with his unemotional mother and her abusive boyfriend. When Marcos meets Amy, the new girl at school, Marcos thinks he’s found himself a new girlfriend. But Amy ends up teaching him things about relationships, love, girls, school, and himself that he was never expecting.
The novel features a variety of characters that will make readers hate, love, pity, and root for them. Even though the different characters’ “cliques” fall under stereotypical high school archetypes, (the punk-rockers to tough-guys to bleach-blonde bobbleheads) the interactions between the students are funny, genuine, and engaging. Aceves effectively adds just enough depth in every character where their personalities reflect the struggles they are going through.
The novel is told through Marcos’ point of view, and is written in a language mimicking his dialect, which is mostly slang. However, the language sometimes unnaturally switches between slang and proper English, making the voice a bit confusing and the overall sound as a bit clunky at times.
The strongest element of the novel lies in the examination of Marcos’ relationships. His friendship with his “homeboys” is called into question when he realizes that they may not be as close as he thought they were. The disconnected, distant friendships that are addressed in the novel are realistic and honest. The aching desire but never-ending struggle to connect with people will leave readers hurting for Marcos and thinking about the depth of their own friendships.
Amy and Marcos’ friendship is arguably the most developed because of what Amy teaches him about true friendship and love. With Amy’s steadfast, confident, no-BS manner, Marcos learns a powerful lesson about being vulnerable, open, and honest when forming and maintaining friendships and relationships, and will be one of the biggest takeaways for young people reading the novel.
Marcos is chosen to be a part of a class called “Future Success”, a course that attempts to help academically struggling students raise their grades and get “on track for the future”. The class dynamic, the teacher, and the overall outcome of the class experience for Marcos and the students are, unfortunately, a bit clichéd and predictable in their format and development.
A modern coming-of-age story, The Closest I’ve Come shines a light on the struggles of the new generation; with cell phones, social media, and increasing pressure to attend college despite having no resources or desire, young adults are more confused than ever about who/what/when/where/why they want to be in the world. For Marcos and his friends, it’s a matter of how they can be all of the things they dream of. Realistic and dynamic, Aceves creates a cast of characters that reveal the institutional, personal and financial problems that surround urban communities.
Rating: 8 out of 10