Thursday, November 04, 2021

Teen/YA Review: Illegal

I am a huge fan of YA author Francisco X. Stork, and I enjoyed his novels Marcelo in the Real World, Irises, and The Memory of Light. He has a talent for telling stories that feature realistic young characters with deep emotional depth that address important issues. I also enjoyed his novel Disappeared, which deals with immigration issues and human trafficking. Last month, I listened to the sequel to that book, Illegal, which continues the story of a brother and sister running for their lives. I will give you a rough outline of this second book, without spoiling the first one.

Sara Zapata and her younger brother, Emiliano, have made it to the United States, literally in fear for their lives, but their problems are not yet over. Sara worked as a journalist at a local newspaper in Juarez, where she wrote several articles about the many young women who went missing from the city every year, including her friend, Linda. In the course of Disappeared, Sara obtained information that could help find the women and identify the criminals responsible, but unfortunately, those criminals knew that Sara had that dangerous information, which is why she and Emiliano had to flee for their lives. Now, Sara is in a detention center in Texas, awaiting an asylum hearing, while Emiliano has been able to get to Chicago, where their estranged father is living with his new wife and son. The narrative moves back and forth between sister and brother, both of whom are still in serious danger from desperate criminals who will do anything to keep that information from the authorities. Sara is not even safe in the custody of the detention center. How will they get their information to the police and save those missing women while keeping themselves and their loved ones safe?

As with Disappeared, this is a tense, gripping thriller with plenty of action and suspense. It is also a story about immigration, with in-depth characters caught in complex and real-life situations (even without the criminals involved). As always, Stork delves into all of these complicated issues with compassion and detailed information, bringing the reader along on these dangerous adventures. The tension continues right through to the end, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, as Sara and Emiliano race against time to both do the right thing and stay safe. I am always impressed by Stork's intricate and powerful novels, and this one kept me captivated on audio.

304 pages, Scholastic

Scholastic Audio

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from the start of the book where Sara is in the detention center, and/or download it from Audible.


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Or you can order Illegal from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I have enjoyed Stork's books as well, but heard this one isn't as good so I am glad to hear you liked it.

    1. The politics of it might bother some people. I thought the 2 books together were a very compelling story. Different from his other novels, though.