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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel

Into the Beautiful North - Luis Alberto Urrea The goth vampire-wannabe, the heavy metal busboy, the slut, the ninja of the trash heap, the feminista mayor, the gay restaurant owner, the former-bowling champ, the bandidos, the Christian missionary gone bad, the good cop, the bad cop, oh, and of course, the protagonist—the sweet and beautiful teenage girl. To take a look at the cast of characters of Into the Beautiful North, one might assume they were reading a novel meant for a young adult audience. Throw in the references to Johnny Depp, Emo, and MTV and they’d be sure of it.Urrea’s latest novel tells the story of a group of Mexicans who make their way in to the United States to claim some of their men back. They do so to repopulate their village and protect it from the bandidos who are taking over. Along the way they encounter beatings, deportation, and racism, all of which is practically light-hearted.Beneath it all, however, there is something mature about this book. I haven’t read Urrea before, so perhaps I am making too great of an assumption here, but I would venture to guess that Into the Beautiful North is to Urrea as Tortilla Flat is to Steinbeck: The lighthearted drama of a group of ragtag misfits. Based solely on their similarities, I get the feeling that Urrea can be much more serious.Judging this novel by its own merits, I can say little more than I enjoyed it. It was entertaining. Aside from its informative glimpses into Mexican culture, I doubt the author had a goal beyond amusement. The characters were entertaining, but equally unrealistic and flat. The story caught my attention, but didn’t urge me to take any action or feel any emotion. The language was simple, stripped down to the bare minimum, but equally forgettable.Into the Beautiful North was unlike any novel I’ve read before. It’s not easily classified. It felt like an award winning piece of literature wrapped in a layer of teen fiction trying to pass itself off as a book for the general fiction crowd. Whatever you want to call it, it is a novel that is easily accessible to many different classes of readers.