I just finished Francisco X. Stork’s (by the way, doesn’t he have an awesome name?) book, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. I got excited when I spotted this one in the bookstore, in part because I really enjoyed Marcelo in the Real World (which made many a blog and critic’s top ten YA lists last year) and in part because it had such great cover design. Yes, I do judge books by their covers.
I wasn’t disappointed. Yet again, Stork has crafted a well-told tale that is both entertaining and thought provoking. The main character, Pancho, is grieving for the loss of his sister and father when he goes to live at an orphanage. There, he meets D.Q., who has terminal cancer. D.Q. immediately insists that Pancho become his helper as he enters a new stage in his treatment. At first, Pancho is too distracted by thoughts of revenge on the person he believes was responsible for his sister’s death. As time goes on, D.Q. and his “death warrior” philosophy begin to give him something else beyond his anger. The questions that D.Q. deals with as he faces death give the reader a lot to think about. The book’s structure is also satisfying. D.Q. wants desperately to live while Pancho, in his depression, is ready to throw his life away. This book deals with different issues than Stork’s previous young adult novel, Marcelo in the Real World. However, in both books, he has created a teenage boy on the brink of adulthood who begins the novel with a single minded pursuit of a goal. Only by breaking out of that mindset and letting the world in can each character grow. While this is a YA novel, I think it’s one that could also be enjoyed by adults.