Books by Ray Villareal

On-the-Other-Side-of-the-BridgeLon Chaney Rodriguez is a typical thirteen-year-old boy. He loves horror movies. His bedroom is a mess. He doesn’t like to read boring books. And he likes to skip church to hang out at Catfish Creek during services. But his life changes completely when his mother is shot and killed at the apartment complex where she worked as a security guard. Life without her is unimaginable, and Lon is haunted by the feeling that he let his mom down. He didn’t prioritize his schoolwork, so he’s on the brink of failing. And worse, he lied to her.  Why didn’t he tell the truth? Why didn’t he make better grades and help more? Lonnie’s life is turned upside down, both at school and home. The school counselor is determined to get him to talk about his mom, and the preacher’s daughter is insistent that he read scriptures to bring himself comfort. His unemployed father turns to drinking excessively and struggles to pay the bills. It doesn’t seem possible, but … will they really end up on the street like the homeless guy that panhandles at the freeway underpass?

Acclaimed author and educator Ray Villareal once again writes a fast-paced novel for teens that explores the impact of making bad choices while touching on serious themes such as death and homelessness.

“Villareal paints a believable picture of what can happen to a family when a crisis hits and how such events can ripple throughout every aspect of an adolescent’s life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The story is insightful, and Lonnie is a sympathetic character, who suffers from his dad’s bad choices. On the Other Side of the Bridge succeeds in offering a disturbing picture of the situation of too many Americans today.”—Booklist

Named to the 2016 In the Margins Book Award List.

 

Body Slammed!Sixteen-year-old Jesse Baron feels like he’s living his life on the sidelines. He’s on the varsity football team, but only because it’s what his dad wants him to do. And the girl he used to go out with is dating the popular quarterback. Jesse is fed up with being cut down and dismissed, whether by the coach or his friends. If only he was bigger, tougher and more athletic, like his dad.

Those things didn’t matter to Jesse’s mom. She left his father, a professional wrestler, because of his demanding career. But it’s through his dad that Jesse meets TJ Masters, a brash, new wrestling talent who’s over 21, drives a fast car and is more than willing to show Jesse a good time. And unlike his dad, TJ makes Jesse feel tough and confident; he even offers to help Jesse bulk up. But will Jesse listen to his family and friends when they warn him about hanging out with someone who’s often reckless and irresponsible?

“A San Antonio teenager hooks up with a fast-living pro wrestler and discovers the downside of hanging out with risky companions in this sequel to My Father, the Angel of Death.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This stand-alone sequel to Villareal’s earlier novel, My Father, the Angel of Death (2006), tells a taut and believable story about a young man’s coming-of-age and the choices he must make. The material about professional wrestling will be of special interest to boy readers.”—Booklist

“Written in an accessible, engaging voice, Body Slammed! is a perfect title for young men, especially reluctant readers or avid sports fans.”—The Monitor

 

Don't Call Me HeroRawly Sanchez’s life sucks. It’s another Friday night, and he’s struggling with his algebra homework in his mom’s Mexican restaurant, which is also on the brink of failure. Ever since his dad died, his mother has had to work twice as hard. And starting next Saturday, algebra tutoring classes will mean he won’t get to see his brother Jaime, who’s in prison.

His whole life takes a turn for the better when he rescues a young woman, who happens to be a famous model, from a flooded creek. The dramatic rescue is caught on tape by a local news crew and soon Rawly is being hailed as a hero. Suddenly, every reporter in town wants to interview him. His mom is sure all the publicity will be good for the restaurant . . . and maybe the girl’s family will offer a financial reward!

Rawly doesn’t want to demand money for saving someone’s life, but he has to admit it is nice that kids who avoided him in the past now want to hang out with him. It’s impossible to resist the popular quarterback’s invitation to “have a good time,” even if it means ditching his best friend. And best of all, Miyoko, the most beautiful girl in school, wants to go out with him. But, do they really like him? Or do they just want to take advantage of his new-found fame?

Acclaimed author and educator Ray Villareal once again writes a fast-paced novel for teens that will raise questions about the value of celebrity and true friendship. Spotlighting teens’ interest in comic books and super heroes, even the most reluctant readers will be sucked in.

“After saving the life of a famous model, a 14-year-old Mexican-American boy learns the pressures of popularity and the definition of true heroism. The third-person narration follows Rawley s journey as he learns who his real friends are and the difference between comic-book and real-world heroes. A good story with some unexpected twists.”–Kirkus Review

“This is a welcome addition for libraries short on books about Latino males.”–School Library Journal

“A story of coping with the pressures of sudden fame and finding one’s own peace, Don’t Call Me Hero is a fine and much recommended read.”–The Midwest Book Review

 

My Father, the Angel of DeathOut of the fog billowing from the regions of the Netherworld steps a gigantic, ominous figure dressed in black. A white, skeleton face peers from the long, hooded cloak draping his massive frame, and in one hand, he clutches a wood-handled scythe with a razor-sharp blade. It’s … the Angel of Death, the American Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion! But one of the most popular wrestlers on Monday Night Mayhem is also Mark Baron, Jesse Baron’s father.

Jesse has just started at yet another new school, this time in San Antonio, and he dreads the moment when the other kids in his seventh-grade class learn who his father is. The reaction will be the same as it was in Omaha, Atlanta, Tampa, St. Louis, and all the other cities he has lived in. They will want to be his “friend” not because they like him, but because they are obsessed with the Angel of Death. When Jesse learns that one of the boys at school—one of his father’s biggest fans—doesn’t have a father, Jesse realizes that he has never made an effort to get to know his classmates. Could his automatic assumption that other kids are only interested in him because of his father be wrong? Is it possible to make friends, in spite of his father?

Meanwhile, his parents’ relationship is also suffering because of the Angel of Death’s celebrity status. The constant moving from city to city, his father’s extended absences while on tour with the ACW, and fans who clamor for autographs and photos even during family outings lead to continuous bickering. They have separated once before, and Jesse worries that his mother will leave his dad again.

As Jesse negotiates all the usual middle-school problems—from bullies to first love—he can’t help but wonder what his life would be like if his father weren’t a famous wrestler.

“This wonderfully moving novel alternates between humor, tenderness, and insight about what it means and takes to become a man.”—KLIATT

“First loves, middle school angst, fame, family problems, bullies-it is all here…A good read.”—Catholic Library World

Nominated to the 2008-2009 Lone Star Reading List and named to The New York Public Library’s 2007 Books for the Teen Age.

 

Whos-Buried-in-the-GardenSeventh-grader Joshua knows his best friend Artie Mendoza is a liar. They have been friends since kindergarten, and Artie has told far-fetched stories for years. So when Artie tells Josh that there’s a body buried in Mrs. Foley’s garden, Josh doesn’t believe him at first. But when Josh walks by the Foleys’ house, he sees the mound of earth, about seven feet long and covered with flowers, and has to admit it does look like a grave.

Artie insists that Mrs. Foley killed her husband and buried him in the back yard. The Foleys used to fight so loudly that kids walking in the alley behind their house could hear the arguments. Lately, there hasn’t been any sign of Mr. Foley. Still, Josh has his doubts. But Wolf Man, Artie’s other best friend, naively believes everything his friend tells him and encourages Artie’s plan to dig up the body. Josh doesn’t care much for Wolf Man, and if he’s honest with himself, he knows he’s jealous of the friendship between Wolf Man and Artie. Unlike Josh, they watch wrestling on TV, don’t care much about school, and on top of that, speak Spanish fluently, which makes Josh feel left out.

While Josh struggles to avoid getting caught up in Artie’s scheme to get famous by digging up the supposed body in Mrs. Foley’s backyard he also tries to cultivate his budding friendship with Lorena, the prettiest girl in the seventh grade, who challenges Josh to see both Artie and Wolf Man in a different light. With other problems sprouting up all around him, Josh can’t help but wonder if there’s really a shovel-wielding criminal living in the neighborhood. Instead of digging up the garden, or grave, shouldn’t they call the police?

Young adult author and educator Ray Villareal has written another fast-paced, exciting novel for middle-school students that explores the impact of making poor decisions and the importance of choosing the right friends.

Nomination, WA White Children’s Book Awards MasterLists 2011-2012; Finalist, ForeWord Review’s 2010 Book of the Year Awards; Winner, 2010 LAUSD Westchester Fiction Award; Included in Pennsylvania School Librarians Association’s The Young Adult Top Forty or so Fiction Titles 2009

“A solid glimpse at seventh-grade life from a writer who understands the age—biography reports, friendships made and lost, crushes, misbehavior and, sometimes quiet heroism. This story of three Latino boys with Stephen King–ish imaginations ought to find a wide audience.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An intriguing tale that will capture readers’ imaginations. [Readers] will also like the lighthearted humor and wrestling antics that have been integrated into the story. The sprinkling of Spanish words reflects Joshua’s Hispanic neighborhood in Texas.”—Library Journal

“Another novel by Villareal will satisfy the appetites of middle grade readers for fast-paced adventure. Villareal portrays in an exciting plot the ramifications of making bad decisions and having to make amends.”—Multicultural Review

“His [Josh’s] slightly sarcastic but undeniably honest voice tells a story that poses questions of loyalty, growth, and decision-making. Josh’s voice and humorous anecdotes will engage middle school readers, and the references to both Latino and popular culture will especially appeal to boys.”—Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

 

Alamo WarsJosephine “Miss Mac” McKeever had taught English and Theatre Arts at Rosemont Middle School for so long that her colleagues sometimes joked that she would die in the classroom. So when she does just that, students, teachers, and administrators are stunned.

After getting over the initial shock of losing their colleague, the staff agrees that they need to do something very special to acknowledge Miss Mac’s fifty-one years of dedication to the students at Rosemont and suggest naming the school’s auditorium after her. When Mrs. Frymire, her long-time colleague and friend, discovers a play written by Miss Mac years before, she knows that it would be the perfect memorial to present the play, Thirteen Days to Glory: The Battle of the Alamo, in the school’s auditorium named after her friend.

But the teachers quickly learn that presenting a play isn’t as easy as Miss Mac had always made it seem, and soon the entire school community is in an uproar as conflicts related to the play emerge. Seventh-grader and Golden Gloves boxer Marco Diaz is, at first, excited to be chosen to play Jim Bowie, the brave Texan who defended the Alamo against Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. But his friend Raquel, an undocumented immigrant, calls him a sell-out because she believes the play makes heroes out of the people who stole her ancestors’ land. And Sandy Martinez, Miss Mac’s much younger replacement, finds the Mexican characters’ dialogue not only politically incorrect but downright offensive. Miss Mac’s friends, though, are adamantly opposed to making changes. Ms. Martinez also tries to convince them that giving certain students plum roles in exchange for their parents’ contributions is wrong, but ends up leaving the production in frustration.

Meanwhile, rehearsals only serve to increase the tension between Marco’s friend Izzy Pena and the school bully Billy Ray Cansler. And it’s only a matter of time before Billy Ray corners Izzy when Marco isn’t around to protect him.

Weary from struggling with disruptive kids, teachers and kids dropping out of the play, and parents with unreasonable expectations, everyone begins to wonder if they should just give up and cancel the production. Is it too much to expect everyone to work together to pay homage to a long-time friend and teacher?

“Villareal takes on several important themes including illegal immigration, bullying, parent / teacher relationships, and bilingualism. Ultimately, many of the characters—and readers—learn that there can be more than one truth, more than one point of view.”—School Library Journal

 

You Don't Have a ClueWhen two gun-toting hoodlums tell the fourteen-year-old narrator of René Saldaña’s story, “The Right Size,” to kiss the floor, he doesn’t think twice. And his dad and younger brother drop to the floor just as quickly. “This guy Jimmy probably thinks Dad is the greatest threat among the three of us, but he’s dead wrong. Dad couldn’t hurt a bug,” the boy thinks. In the ensuing twenty minutes, he learns that his dad isn’t as weak as he thought, and in fact, his dad is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his family, even if it means killing someone.

The teens featured in these stories deal with situations typical to all young adults, including attraction to the opposite sex—or to the same sex, in one story—and first sexual encounters, problems with family and friends, academic and personal aspirations.

But they also deal with every kind of thrilling situation imaginable, from missing girls to kidnappings and dismembered bodies. A young girl finds herself living with her “family,” though she has no memory of them or who they claim she is. A geek at a prestigious public high school finds himself working with his very attractive arch-rival to solve the mystery of a severed, bloody arm that appears inexplicably in his locker. And Mike’s life sucks when his parents split up, but it gets worse when his best friend is abducted by a thug shot by Mike’s dad, a police officer. There’s something for everyone here, with aliens, ghosts and even an Aztec goddess making appearances in these stories.

Set in schools and communities from New York City to Venice Beach, California, the protagonists reflect the breadth and diversity of the Latino authors included in this innovative collection.  Published authors such as Mario Acevedo, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Diana López and Sergio Troncoso appear alongside less well-known authors who deserve more recognition. With an introduction by young adult literature expert Dr. James Blasingame of Arizona State University, this collection is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last page is turned.

“This excellent collection gives faces to Latino teens in a most original way.”—Booklist

“Cortez complements her adult level Hit List: The best of Latino Mystery (2009) with 18 new tales featuring teen characters and concerns. Overall, a consistent, well-crafted collection.”—Kirkus Reviews