“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Brothers Torres • YA fiction

The Brothers Torres
by Coert Vorrhes
Spring 2008 •
Disney – Hyperion Books • YA fiction
The provocative story of a Mexican-American teenager's
coming of age in the southwest.
Story: Frankie Towers looks up to his older brother Steve, who always gets what he wants: girls, a soccer scholarship, and--lately--street cred. But Frankie has reservations about Steve's crusade to win the respect of the local cholos. He may have to choose between respecting his brother and respecting himself.
Story behind the story: Debut author Coert Voorhees will be featured at this year’s National Council of Teachers of English annual convention and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents workshop. Born and raised in New Mexico, Voorhees states, “When I was growing up, I received so much conflicting information about my role in the world as a man. I questioned how to act, and wondered who to emulate. During my time as a high school and junior high teacher, I had the opportunity to see this paradox with two viewpoints: through the conflicted and sometimes tortured eyes of a teenager and with the wizened eyes of someone who has made it through. That experience helped to inform my writing of The Brothers Torres.” Voorhees was
interviewed for School Library Journal’s The Debut.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews to date from your colleagues.


Deborah Muldawer said...

Edgy and fast-paced, The Brothers Torres is a classic coming-of-age story in an unconventional setting.

On the surface, Francisco(Frankie)Towers/Torres is like many guys. He's into girls and cars, he admires his older brother, and he helps his parents with the family restaurant.

However, all of these relationships are overshadowed by racial dynamics and the contrast between "cholos" and regular Hispanics.

Although the town of Borges is fictional, the situations and characters are all too real. As someone who teaches in New Mexico, I see these dynamics every day and my students share similar stories.

Saturated with violence, curse words (both Spanish and English), and sexual references, The Brothers Torres would be most appropriate for an older teen audience.

Well worth reading for an insiders look at teenage life in New Mexico, The Brothers Torres is the meat in your Picnic Basket sandwich.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

RistauReadslibrary2 said...

The Brothers Torres is a good read. The population of my school is quite diverse and even though my students are too young for the content of this book, I can see them really being able to relate to Frankie. The language and content are too adult for them at this point, but I am going to recommend it to our district's high school librarian since this book is one that would provide the viewpoint of a Mexican American.

While I was reading I found myself rooting for Frankie, and able to relate to his underdog status.

This is a great addition to the teen male coming of age selections already out there.

Rating: 4

Janet said...

Is the story of two brothers coming of age in a small New Mexico town, and dealing with the problems of race, sexual awakening and peer pressure (gang/group) activities.
They are of mixed ethnic background (Caucasian and Hispanic) and must decide which role models to follow.

The story is told through the eyes and voice of the younger brother who enters high school as his brother prepares to leave it as a senior.
Steve the older brother is a soccer sensation and being offered a scholarship for his ability in the game. He is dealing with the issues of fitting in with the local “bad boys” as well as succeeding for his parents.
Frankie the younger is dealing with the problems of getting a girl and dealing with the fact he is the “little” brother and not good at anything his older brother is good at, sports or personal relationships.
The story follows about three weeks of their lives and ends with both boys having to choose the path they wish to follow and as a result both get hurt as well as causing hurt to others.

It is not for below High School reader level due to the sexual innuendos, descriptions as well as violence. They are all things that today’s teen faces but a reader should perhaps be more mature to read this book.

It is also written using a lot of Spanish terms and phrases, which to someone not knowledgeable may find hard to understand as they read.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

Laura said...

Frankie Towers is a good kid. He helps out at the family restaurant, he's a loyal friend to his buddy Zach, and he idolizes his big brother Steve. But lately Frankie's had to cover up for his brother more and more - Steve's been staying out all night and coming home with black eyes and bruises. Steve's street cred may be rising, but Frankie's getting concerned about his brothers' choices. Frankie's romantic life is getting complicated, too. He's been pining over Rebecca for years now - and just when she seems to notice him, the most popular senior in the school is suddenly hanging all over her.

Frankie's problems are as realistic as the spot-on teen voice used in Coert Voorhees' novel. Steve's increasing desire for the "respect" of the local gang, Frankie's growing relationship with Rebecca, and his need to stand up for himself and his friends are all a catalyst for Frankie's growth over the course of the story. The small-town New Mexico setting is vibrant, and lends the novel its own language. Collectors should be advised that the realistic language includes frequent casual swearing, but that it is absolutely a contributing factor in the success of the novel's voice.

Voorhees' characterization is the strongest aspect of this novel, which one exception. While most of the characters are very well-rounded and show both strengths and weaknesses, the novel's "bad guy" is almost a charicature of the YA mean jock. Not only does he graphically beat up Frankie and try to steal the girl, but his very rich family is trying to buy up and homogenize the entire town. He is the one character who is not given a well-rounded personality, and it makes him stand out in the world of the novel.

4 - Recommend without Reservation

Anonymous said...

Although this book would be a great read for older groups, it is a little edgy for my 6th graders. We are in very rural area, and I think they would have a difficult time relating to this text.

I can definitely see uses for this book, the characters are enticing, and truly engaging, I think students in different areas, less rural areas, could relate well to the facts of life presented in this text.

As far as usability for me, I would give it a 3. This is a book I would tell adults about, but probably not recommend to any of my students.

Anonymous said...

The Brothers Torres is laugh out loud funny, with enough in between the pages to be a non-stop read.

This is realistic fiction at its best. So real, in fact, that my copy is being read by my students already.

This is the type of writer that teens are searching for with the realism of everyday life and a true lesson to be learned.

Allyn said...

I absolutely loved The Brother Torres. It introduced an entire new world to me and I thank the author for it. Strong authentic character detail with dialogue including English and Spanish words interspersed. Fantastic. I think students could greatly relate to the characters and their underdog status.

Language was a bit strong in parts and I do not feel comfortable giving it out freely to my 8th graders, but it would be appropriate for a more mature student.

Picnic Basket: 4

A. Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts Teacher

Denise M. Chavez-Duran, 7th Grade Language Teacher said...

Coert Voorhees’ The Brothers Torres was an interesting look into an adolescent boy’s mind in this coming of age novel. As a native New Mexican and Hispanic, I’m not sure he nailed the issues of the struggle with racial identity, both internal and external. The sidebars to the reader at the beginning of the novel were a little much, but as they spread out throughout the rest of the novel they provided an interesting addition to the story. I wasn’t immediately hooked, but it was enough to make me interested in the characters and what happened to them. As a fellow small-town New Mexican, I can appreciate the various views of life in a small town; Rebecca’s need to escape, the trapped feeling, the conflicting feelings of appreciation and stagnation. Voorhees was able to draw me in and I found myself wrapped up in the story. As a seventh grade teacher, I don’t see myself planning a lesson around it, but I will definitely use excerpts in a unit on New Mexican heritage and culture. I will also encourage my students to read it for pleasure and silent reading time in class. My recommendation is a 3---Neutral. This book is good for a sandwich picnic on the lawn in the shade, but it may not be worthy of a picnic planned around it.
-- Denise M. Chavez-Duran
7th Grade Language Arts Teacher
James Monroe Middle School

Cynthia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia said...

Coert Voorhees’s first novel set in small-town New Mexico is an enthralling delight to read. Fast-paced, real and immediate, its characters face present day high school concerns—family, friendships, race, class, ownership, romance, and violence—with honesty and wry humor. Although I found it irritating in the first couple of chapters, the manner in which the first-person narrator, Frankie Towers, habitually separates from himself to observe himself is astonishingly well-done, imitating the self-consciousness of adolescent experience; within a few chapters I was hooked, with no desire to set down the book. His longings and desires contrast against the reality of his situation—where he’s the “good son” working at the family restaurant while his athletically-gifted older brother with college scholarship in hand is given the latitude to run wild (while his parents believe he’s studying or practicing football). Towers’ torn loyalties, desire to gain social status, longing to date the beautiful Rebecca, and sense of personal inadequacy in the company of football heroes and the bad cholos. Heritage—Spanish, white or Native American—is vitally important to the characters and yet easily joked about among friends. The Spanish language terms peppering the text add credibility and the many English translations easily woven into the story allow readers unfamiliar with Spanish to understand, and to learn bits of a rising language in the English-speaking USA.

This tale, authentically told, yet able to cross into the consciousness of diverse readers, earns a Picnic Basket rating of 5 from me. It will easily breach the cultural divides of the United States to bring YA readers of all cultures to a better understanding of the pressures of being a young, Latino-American male in the Southwest. The Brothers Torres is the dessert of a well-rounded picnic. Provide it as a free-choice title for grades 8 and nine; consider studying it as part of a literature course for grades 10 and above.

Watch for Voorhees’ name, as he is destined to be a rising star in the world of YA Latino-American literature.

Picnic Basket: 5

Cynthia Winfield
Educator & Author; 8th grade English teacher (1997-2008), Ottoson Middle School, Arlington MA, licensed in Massachusetts to teach English (5-12) and Reading (all levels); author of Gender Identity: The Ultimate Teen Guide, No. 16 in the Scarecrow Press “It Happened To Me” nonfiction series for older teens, edited by Arlene Hirschfelder (2007); MFA in writing, Emerson College, Boston, 1999

Anonymous said...

I generally liked The Brothers Torres. It was realistic and I'm sure my students would like it. It might even be one of those books the kids have to be placed on a "waiting list" to read.

Personally, I would have liked more interaction between Frankie and his parents and/or Frankie and his brother. But perhaps that's the point.

M. Lee said...

The Brother Torres was a very good read. I enjoyed it from the moment I picked it up and I did not want to put it down. My final thought as I finished reading the book was about how long I would have to wait to read a sequel.

I am the Media Specialist in a high school that the student population is predominantly Hispanic and my students are always asking for books about kids like them. The Brother Torres is one that I will definitely recommend. It has the components that interest them; gangs and violence but it does not say that gangs are good or show them in a glorified manner. I truly believe my students will be waiting in line for this book.

Picnic Basket – 5 I would skip desert to read a sequel to this book.

Marcella Lee
Media Specialist
U.S. Grant High School
Oklahoma City, OK

Anonymous said...

A novel with a similar charm as Sherman Alexie's The Absoultely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, but not as much depth. For example, the 'cholos' in The Brothers... are caricatures, complete with the unbuttoned flannels of gang members in TV dramas. The Indians of Absolutely True... are well-developed and varied, with Alexie's trademark warts-and all depictions. Ultimately, my students really enjoy The Brothers, so I give it a four.

Jason Patrone
8th Grade English

Anonymous said...

The Brothers Torres is a Bildungsroman that felt hollow. It is difficult to see Frankie's personal development as he watches his older brother combust before his eyes. Frankie seems to remain static- the sensitive responsible brother- throughout the novel. The adolescent issues addressed are real (the pressure to be "hard", the dangers of school and a neighborhood), but the language was, in my view, trying too hard. How will students interpret the constant volley of insults of "pussy" and "faggot" between characters? I'm not sure if I'll give the novel to my seventh graders who exist, in reality, in a neighborhood that requires them to be "hard". Because of the over-the-top language and lack of depth, my rating for the The Brothers Torres is a 3.

--Rachel Mahlke
Seventh Grade English

ms-teacher said...

I enjoyed The Brother Torres and could definitely see aspects of some of my students in Frankie.

As others have already posted, I do think that the language may be too strong for my 6th graders. However, I do think that it might be appropriate for mature 8th grade and beyond.

I could also relate to the dynamic of the relationship between the two brothers. As the mother of two boys, my younger son definitely looks up to his older brother.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

Estrella said...

The Brothers Torres was an interesting read. Being from a Hispanic background I liked the insight into the male young adult mind of a boy struggling to find the perfect balance of cool and righteousness.

It also provides a classic look into the struggle of two siblings of the similar sex who are always having their differences pointed out. Steve is the older, good-looking, athletic brother who seems to be coasting through life and getting the respect he thinks he’s earned. Frankie, the younger, loyal to the family brother wants to be just like Steve.

I enjoyed the story of how Frankie finds out the difference between the respect that you earn by being a good person and the respect you get from intimidation.

Working with High School students in Arizona, I think they will thoroughly enjoy this book and find it a fun read and somewhat relatable.

Sandra Stiles said...

This was a great read. I read it during the day we had silent reading in my class. My students were very interested in what I was reading. The story line is appropriate for my 7th and 8th graders. Several live this story line every day. I found some of the Spanish difficult to follow, even though I hear it every day in my classes. I believe some students may struggle with the unfamiliar language. I am loaning it to a program we have at our school for students who are in gangs or trying to fit into that group of kids. The sexual inuendos were a bit much at times. I do realize with pregnant eighth graders in our schools that it is nothing that will shock our students.

I think it would give students a look at the choices one faces due to peer pressure and gang affiliation.

wordwarrior said...

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

The Brother Torres fills a much needed area of YA fiction, a story of boys coming of age. What makes this story particularly unique and useful is that is is about Mexican Americans and some of the circumstances faced by young men of this ethnicity. I would definately reccommend this book to highschool level readers in my community. The language is a bit rough and there are situations of violence and sexuality in the novel, but this just makes it more realisitic to the reader. My community does not have alot of ethnicity in it, we live in a rather rural Kansas community, but that just makes this book even more valuable to our readers. It is so well done that they can taste a bit of culture outside thier realm while reading this book. I would definately give it a 4 and consider it a must in a high school level library.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED this book, and it flew off the shelces when I offered it to a small group of boys in my classes. i teach 8th grade in a suburban middle school, and most of my male students are mature enough to handle the "edginess" of the novel. There is some sexuality in it and lots of f-bombs are dropped, but I think that's the appeal for these kids. As one of them so eloquently put: "It's a novel for us guys that is finally REAL."

We are all looking forward to the next novel from this author. When does it come out??? :)

Picnic Basket rating: 5

Anonymous said...

Coert Voorhees' first novel, The Brothers Torres, is a wonderfully written story about a teenage boy navigating his way through the pressures of peers and family. Written in typical teenage language, I can see where this book could turn a reluctant reader into an avid reader which is why I struggle to give the book a rating. I love the way that it feels real. After sharing a few passages with an adult who is not a reader, they responded that they would like to read the story. However, due to the strong language content, I do not recommend it for a school library. For this reason only, I rank the book a 1; not one I could recommend to our students.

Julia Pitau
Media & Intervention Technician
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

D. Reed said...

A 7th grade student of mine begged to read this book when she saw it on my desk. She is mature and an avid reader, so I let her read it before I could. Her official review is as follows:
"The Brothers Torres was one of the best books I've read this year. I felt really connected with the main character, Frankie. I liked the book, but I would not recommend it to most middle school kids because of the language. It would probably be good for a high schooler to read since they'd be able to relate to many of the situations."

Anonymous said...

I liked this book i didn't get a lot of information at the end like what happened to steve? I hope you make more books!