Book Review, Books

Beast Rider – Tony Johnston [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★★

A fantasy that stays true to many young people, that dare cross a border, searching for a better life. A fantasy, but also a cruel reality of what truly happens to these young boys and girls, and all the journeys they have to go through, fighting for a better tomorrow.

This is the first book I have read by Tony Johnston, and the reason I chose to read Beast Rider was because we get to see a twelve-year-old Manuel leave his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in the US.

As a girl myself, I had a family member that lived in another country, and I have always had my inner battle of going abroad to search for a better tomorrow and sadness of leaving my old life behind. With Manuel, you get to feel his hopes and fears, his nostalgia for his hometown and family, his thoughts and learnings at every step of his journey.

A few points bothered me slightly; the grammar in this book needs to be edited immediately. The character keeps using two words in a row row, and after a while while, it gets quite off putting off putting (you see what I mean?). I truly hope this is editing mistake, and not a writing style. There are a lot of Mexican words, without any glossary included. I can understand the words, but some people wouldn’t – and not being able to know the meaning can be a nuisance.

While reading about the journey of Manuel, I couldn’t help but remember exactly how I felt in a few points of my journey:

  • To Go or Not To Go

Manuel’s brother left the small Mexican village and now lives in Los Angeles. Manuel loves his big brother, and wants to join him desperately. He secretly plans his journey and decides to leave the town, after a lot of hesitation, in order to find his older brother. The battle between to go or not to go is the biggest battle one person can have with themselves. It is always hard, no matter which way one decides to go. And when Manuel decides it is time to go, I knew exactly how he felt, when I myself made that hard decision as well, and left my comfortable home to go and live in a foreign country.

  • The Journey To a Better Tomorrow

Manuel’s journey is not easy at all. In order to cross the US border, he had to become a ‘’beast rider’’ – someone who hops on a train. He tries multiple times, and various unlucky things happen to him, he gets stopped by the police, he is attached by a gang, people steal his most valuable items. But despite everything, Manuel’s spirit never leaves him, he is always hopeful he will find his brother soon. I loved the motivation and determination in the young Manuel, and it is so amazing to watch him grow through his experiences.

  • The Final Destination – Was This What I Really Wanted?

After all his endeavors, we finally get to see Manuel reunite with his brother. But what happens if you finally reach your destination, and this happens to not be what you wanted to? Manuel struggles to fit in this lifestyle, he can’t recognise himself, or his brother, and he is emotionally wrecked. He misses his family back home, and he realises that what he thought he would achieve once he finds his brother is not happening. When you feel all roads are closing on you, it is time to make a decision. And making his final decision, Manuel proves to have grown so much, and I admired him this entire book.

A beautiful story about all the emotions and journeys that young people go to. We all have dreams, and some of us reach for them, and act on them. Sometimes, these dreams turn out to be our life-changers, and sometimes, these dreams seem great, but are not ours to take. And this book showed me that that’s fine too. It’s okay to realise you suddenly don’t belong. It’s okay to act on your dreams, and it’s also okay to make mistakes. As long as you stay true to yourself, everything will be alright.

Thank you to the publisher Abrams Books and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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