Book: Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Published June 2015 by Running Press Kids|312 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: YA Contemporary
Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina Aguilar wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to feel comfort and security in America with her mother and her new husband. And it has been eight years since she has last seen her father.
Despite insisting on the visit, Tina’s father spends all his time focused on politics and alcohol rather than connecting with Tina, making his betrayal from the past continue into the present. Tina attracts the attention of a mysterious stranger, but the hairpin turns he takes her on may push her over the edge of truth and discovery.
The tense, final months of the Pinochet regime in 1989 provide the backdrop for author Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s suspenseful tale of the survival and redemption of the Aguilar family, first introduced in the critically acclaimed Gringolandia.
I’m not sure what to think about Surviving Santiago! I wanted to like it, and parts of it were interesting, but I had a hard time getting into it.
I didn’t like Tina’s dad at all. I didn’t get why he wanted to see her, when he’s always off working or drinking. For someone who would only divorce his wife if he could see his daughter, he didn’t seem to care (at all) about spending time with her, and it didn’t make sense, especially since it’s been almost a decade since they’ve seen each other.
And even though it takes place during the last months of the Pinochet regime and all of these things are happening, I felt like we were told what was happening, instead of seeing it. I know Tina visiting Chile from the U.S., and she’s naive and not at all aware of what’s going on in Chile, but I wish we saw, through her eyes, what was going on. Well, more of what was going on, because we do get a glimpse towards the end of the book. Which wasn’t really enough for me.
She seemed selfish at times (more than I would have expected) and she seemed to care more about the boy and listening to Metallica and smoking weed than anything else, and the relationship that she does have with her dad at the end of the book…it didn’t work for me. Her actions did change their relationship, but it also put them in a lot of danger. Granted, her dad’s work probably put him in danger, but her actions definitely made it worse.
Overall, it felt like something was missing. I admit that I know nothing about Pinochet- I just recognize the name, so for me, the things her dad went through, and everything that happened with Frankie…I think I needed more of what his regime was actually like. It seemed like she drew on her previous book, which is fine, but maybe I should have started off with that one before reading this one, just to have that context.
Still, I liked the author’s note at the end, and I liked that she had a few recommended titles to read. I felt like that’s something you don’t see a lot in YA. And I do like that we see the beginning of the end, because it could have very easily been during his regime.
2 stars. I do like what Surviving Santiago deals with, and I wanted more context for what was going on in the book, because I didn’t fully understand some of the more political stuff going. I’d still recommend it, though, because it is about something that people might not be familiar with.