Friday, December 31, 2010

Bait, Alex Sanchez

Title:  Bait
Author:  Alex Sanchez
Publlisher:Simon and Shuster Children's Publishing
Year: 2009
Pages:  239
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Level:  7th Grade and Up

Diego MacMann is in trouble. At 16, he faces juvenile court, charged with assault. He just can't control his fists, especially when he feels that his masculinity is threatened. Anger-management classes have failed, and now this earnest young man teeters between self-loathing and defensive pride. Hope comes unexpectedly when he establishes a bond with Mr. Vidas. The probation officer asks questions that challenge Diego to examine his motivations and his emotional life. How does he feel about his absent birth father? The stepfather who committed suicide? The gay student who looked at him that way just before Diego punched him out? The third-person narrative keeps readers one step ahead of Diego as he unravels the effects of abandonment, poverty, and sexual abuse on himself and his struggling family. (from Amazon)

One of the things that I like best about Alex Sanchez as an author is that he shows such a clear sense of the issues teenagers deal with on the journey from childhood to adulthood.  As someone who works with teenagers as a youth advisor, Sanchez's characters and situations feel authentic in a way that some young adult authors can't seem to manage.  I also respect the fact that when he takes on an issue, whether it is the experiences of gay youth, or, in Bait, the devastating results of childhood sexual abuse,  he provides the reader not just with all the gory details, but with moments of transcendence and redemption that take the story from sensationalized stereotype toa deeply moving snapshot of the human experience.  Unlike many books on sexual abuse, Bait does not focus on the act of telling the truth as its culminating event, but on the difficult process of dealing with the emotions and patterns of behavior left in the wake of such violence.  There are no platitudes in this novel.  All along the way Sanchez shows how incredibly difficult the journey back to wholeness is for children who have been broken in this way.  But in Mr. Vidas, Diego's probation officer, Sanchez created the perfect model of what a supportive adult looks like.  And while most of the other adults in Diego's life let him down one way or another, you can't help but hope that all of the Diegos in the world will find their own Mr. Vidas.

Teaching Resources:
Alex Sanchez's Website 
Teenreads Author Profile 
Dunebrook Lesson Plan in Child Abuse 


  1. Thumbs up for a positive comment about a probation officer!

  2. The probation officer in this book is awesome. The portrayal of the juvenile justice system in general, not so much.