18-year-old high school senior Isaias Ramos plays in a punk rock group called Los Psychosis and likes to sing along to songs by Björk and her old band, the Sugarcubes. He’s so bright that when his school’s quiz bowl goes on local TV, he acts as captain.
The counselors at school want him to apply to Harvard. But Isaias isn’t so sure.
“Why?” he asks. “Why should I go to college? Why? I mean everybody tells you to get a good job, right? But I think about a good job doing what? A college degree gives you the ability, but not the actual job. And I guess from my mindset I just don’t see college as being that important.”
He’s thinking of going to work painting houses with his parents, unauthorized immigrants from Mexico. His parents want him to go to college, but can do little to help: they don’t speak English and their educations ended early: his mother finished the ninth grade, his father the sixth. In many ways, Isaias is on his own.
Despite the obstacles and his own doubts, Isaias sets out on the journey to become the first in his family to go to college. He faces make-or-break standardized testing, immigration bureaucracy and absurdly high college costs. And most importantly, the siren song of doubt.
The decisions he makes now will affect his life for decades and influence the lives of his potential children and grandchildren. Dozens of his fellow 12th-graders will make similar decisions this year. So will countless legions of other children of immigrants across the country. And so will millions upon millions more in the years to come.
This remarkable true narrative follows Isaias and his friends for more than three years as they seek their purpose in life, fall in love and break up, and face surprising twists of fate. The characters in this modern yet timeless story will stay with you long after you turn the final page. And now that one in four young people in America is a child of immigrants, this is essential reading.