Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Julia Alvarez
When the family farm is threatened with foreclosure, Tyler’s parents decide to hire a group of Mexican migrant workers as extra help. But they tell Tyler he can’t say anything to others about the Mexican family now living on their property. Tyler is confused about keeping the family secret. And wonders if his parents disobeying the law by employing illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, Mari’s mother hasn't contacted the family since she returned to Mexico. Now that Mari’s dad and uncles work on a farm in Vermont, Mari's worried that her mother won’t be able to find them. Mari and Tyler’s worlds collide on the Vermont farm, and they slowly develop a friendship that helps them to overcome their fears and insecurities. As Tyler navigates the differences between right and wrong in this sticky situation, he helps Mari find her mother.
Return to Sender is a touching story told from both Tyler’s point of view and Mari’s letters written in first person. The timely story revolving around current issues of immigration provides a rich background for readers to contemplate themes of right and wrong and the gray spaces in between. Mari and Tyler are fantastic characters, fully developed and relatable with strong voices. The overarching story is slightly predictable, but the details are complex enough to keep readers guessing at how everything will unfold. The mini-dramas that unravel around the other characters provide even more opportunities for readers to delve into thematic questions of friendship, hope, and family. All in all, a good read that never seems overly didactic, but still manages to allow readers to learn and ask questions of ethics and morals.
*Contains mild violence.