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Prizefighter en Mi Casa    by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo order for
Prizefighter en Mi Casa
by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Twelve-year old Chula Sanchez thinks of herself as nothing special, either in beauty or popularity. She lives in the Circle, a Project in southern Texas composed of Mexicans and a smattering of dark and light skins. Chula considers junior high school as hell, where even the cafeteria has seating divided between Tan Land, Squares, and especially the Royal Rich. Chula has only two friends - Jo and Mary Alice, who stick by and up for each other, when trouble brews from Squaretown students.

Chula's disjointed family consists of Pape Hector, Mama Abuela, paternal grandmother Elena, and a thorn-in-the side brother Ritchie, who consistently browbeats his younger sister. Ritchie travels with the Dark Skins - a rough crowd of bullies and thieves, led by Freddy Cortez. Pape was a problem drinker before the car accident that left him paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. For Chula it was a devastating time when auto glass slivered into her head, resulting in epileptic seizures. Even parents in the Circle are afraid to have their children associate with Chula now, not understanding it as an illness, but instead believing that 'the devil has control of her'.

Chula is a straight A student in the accelerated classes at school. However, because of the medication, her grades are slipping and teachers threaten to put her in the slower division if there is no improvement. Chula decalres 'I am not a retard!' Since the accident, Mama treats Chula without affection, while grandma Elena is slipping into herself - and they all miss her.

Determined to pay off his mounting debts, Pape and Uncle Tio send for a boxer from Mexico, El Jefe de Diablo (the 'Boss of the Devil'), to participate in illegal boxing matches. Pape is certain that investing what remains of family money will bring in profits, as El Jefe is sure to win against Squaretown's Golden Gloves. But the fight is raided by the police, and the morning edition of the paper headlines - 'ILLEGAL PRIZEFIGHT LEAVES LOCAL DEAD'. El Jefe is hidden, but not before Chula hears weeping from this supposed monster of a man with the thick body of a bear, broken knuckles, and an old eye patch.

Prizefighter En Mi Casa was awarded the Delacorte Yearling Contest for a First Middle-Grade Novel. The attention-getting style of writing leaves me sure that readers will see more from this author. However, I was uncomfortable with some unlawful events and harsh, rough scenes, despite understanding the intent to portray a reality of racial prejudice. The story's ending also left me frustrated, with unanswered questions, including about the distance between Chula and her mother, as well as the plight and flight of El Jefe.

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