young adult book reviews & more

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

Dark DudeUnable to deal with the pressure of living in Harlem, the frequent jumpings by just about everyone in his neighborhood because he’s a light-skinned Latino, Rico Fuentes leaves for Wisconsin. Rico can blend in the Midwestern farm country with his light skin so well he’s generally mistaken for a white. It’s just what he needs, and the longer he stays on his friend’s farm, the more he thinks he’ll never go back to New York. But appearances aren’t everything, and even if Rico is mostly enjoying his stay in Wisconsin, he still can’t forget the family he left behind. And he eventually realizes that you can’t change who you are no matter how far you travel from where you’re from.

Dark Dude is a mildly interesting and very realistic novel about cultural identity. For some reason, I just couldn’t get very into this book; the theme appeals to me but the story itself is nothing spectacular. I appreciate the detail included in Dark Dude, especially the stark differences between Harlem and small town Wisconsin; however, this because a bit too much with Hijuelos’ very descriptive inclusions of drug use which I found sick to read about even though I recognize its realism. I like Hijuelos’ depiction of race relations because it shows that no place in America, whether metropolis or small city, USA, is free of ethnic prejudices. Protagonist Rico, a generally pretty go-with-the-flow kind of guy, fits nicely into this equation with his Cuban roots and light complexion, a predicament which causes him trouble or discrimination wherever he goes. Despite finding him a little boring and dreamy, I ended up enjoying Rico’s contemplations and conclusions about life. Dark Dude isn’t a particularly great novel, but it does provide a unique take on the meaning of identity.

Thought I didn’t particularly enjoy Dark Dude, fans of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Amor and Summer Secrets by Diana Rodriguez Wallach, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain may.

Rating: 3.75

Review copy borrowed

2 munch(es) :

Summer said...

this is a book I hadn't heard of before. Thanks for the review!

Serena said...

sounds like a book with an interesting theme, but looks like you really had a hard time getting into it. I like the abstract cover, but that's not enough for me to take the chance on it.

Thanks for the honest review.

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