Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book Review Bundle : The Closest I've Come by Fred Aceves

  7 Hours 30 Minutes | Harper Audio| Contemporary | 11/07/17 | 

Book Review

Generally when I write blogpost  for audiobooks I've reviewed for  AudioFile Magazine I like to focus on reviewing the story, however I'm going to break that rule because of  the Christian Barillas outstanding performance.

Most people will recognize Barillas from his comedic role on Modern Family as Ronaldo, Pepper Saltzman's assistant turned husband. I had to do a double take when I realized who the narrator was because Barillas is doing something entirely different in this audiobook. He is extremely versatile and his nuanced and vulnerable delivery makes way for a thoughtful and dramatic reading.

The movement for more diverse books from big publishers has lead to more opportunities for actors and narrators of color, so  I hope Barillas does more YA audiobooks. Seriously, whoever is in charge of Adam Silvera's audiobooks needs to give Christian Barillas a call.

I listened to a few samples of his other audiobooks ( and he is certainly doing something different here. I would love to see Barillias talent on screen in more dramatic recurring roles.

Okay, about the book.

When I was in high school there used to be one big wall of fiction that I would browse , it was on those shelves that I discovered a particular type of early 2000's YA. Gritty contemporary YA about hardscrabble kids of colors (mostly set in the hood) written by former educators. I'm talking Sharon Draper, Walter Dean Meyers,  E. L Frank and to some extent Chris Crutcher. This book felt like it was in that same spirit a these, but towards the end it was more self aware and took a turn I wasn't expecting.

In Marco's neighborhood boys have to be tough and fathers are in short supply. His home life isn't ideal, so it's hard for him to care about school, but when he is put in the Future Success program he starts to consider just how bright his future could be. And what's interesting is that it's not the actual program that changes him, as a matter of fact the assignment and work they do in the program is oddly mundane. Instead it's the experiences and people he meets as a result of the program that opens his eyes.

I don't know if I appreciated this book  it more because I'm an adult, but what stuck out to me (and what I don't remember from those 2000s books) is that at one point the Future Success program teacher is confronted with the idea that the adults in the lives of these "troubled kids" can't help because they need as much help as the kids.

Marco comes to realize that  the only way he is going to succeed is if  he pulls himself up and out on his own. He comes to realize that the people he can always count on isn't a white savior teacher his parents or a manic pixie dream girl-- it's his peers. His boys. The friends who he hangs with on the basketball court, who he laughs, jokes and stands up for.

A great debut and the kind of YA I would have enjoyed as a teen

Audiobook Review

Christian Barillas's touching and quiet performance capture the ups and downs of teenager Marcos Rivas. Raised in a low-income Tampa neighborhood, Marcos spends most of his time in his head, navigating his tough home life and hiding emotions his peers would taunt him for having. When Marcos joins the Future Success program, he begins to confront the social norms he's grown up with. At the same time, he develops a crush on a headstrong punk girl. Aceves's debut features a poignant first-person point of view that sounds confessional when paired with Barillas's intimate tone. Barillas has an impressive range; the way he hits accents adds a layer of dazzling authenticity to his performance. Listeners will empathize with Marcos and celebrate his new found optimism. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2017]

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