Title: Beyond the Gardens
Author: Sandra C. Lopez
Genre: New Adult, Fiction and Literature, Hispanic Literature
At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.
Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do?
Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.
The premise of this story grabbed me and I could relate in some level to Esperanza’s struggles. A poor girl going after her dreams, leaving all that she knows. Esperanza is blessed with a gift for art and has a dream of working at an Animation company. She gets accepted into one of the top art and design schools and is able to attend thanks to financial aid. She’s suddenly thrust into a world of the elite and struggles to fit in. But she’s determined to not end like her mother.
Meanwhile, there’s two guys who are vying for Esperanza’s love. A classic triangle and one I didn’t mind. Both guys are worthy yet I wished for more depth. When talking about falling in love and choosing the right guy, the reader needs to know the motivation behind action. I know we’re limited to Esperanza’s point of view but I felt like Carlos and Jake were too superficial in terms of characters.
This is a wonderful new adult coming of age story about leaving the nest, adjusting to college life and pursuing your dreams. The author wrote this while attending college which adds an authenticity that I appreciated. She describes the conflict of blending in with society while standing out at the same time. It’s easy to see why the author was named the top ten new Latino authors to watch in 2011.
If you’re looking for a poignant story about following your dreams and falling in love, pick up Beyond the Gardens.
Esperanza. She reminded me of myself my first few years in college. My main goal was to not end up like my mother; it was my driving force and the motivator when making decisions. Esperanza has a delightful personality and her humorous insight shone through. I would’ve loved to have had a friend like her when I was in college.
“It’s a personal thing. It’s just like reading a book or doing yoga – they’re all things you do in solitary confinement to feel centered and at peace.” ~ Jack
My Rating: 4 stars
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Sandra C. López is one of today’s influential Latina authors in Young Adult literature. Her first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Shortly after that, she wrote the follow up title, Beyond the Gardens, starring her inspirational heroine. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in the arts. She was named as one of “2011 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch” by Latino Stories.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N