Border Crossing is another novel by a local author named Jessica Lee Anderson. I have previously and unfavorably reviewed her novel Trudy. Fortunately, Border Crossing is far and away the better of the two novels. Manz is a boy struggling with life in general: his father is dead, his mother is an alcoholic haunted by her stillborn second son, and he himself is hearing voices that do not belong to anyone real. He lives on the wrong side of the tracks in a small Texas border town, and as a half-white, half-Mexican US citizen, he is constantly tormented with the fear of being deported by mistake. As his mental health deteriorates and his friendships fall apart, Manz meets Vanessa, who (supposedly) can help him.
As with her other novel, the conclusion left something to be desired. Though the back of the novel leads one to believe in 1. hope and 2. a firm conclusion, neither are present. In fact, the description of the novel was very poorly written, and is quite misleading. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel. I was simply reading something completely different than what I was expecting.
Having met the author, I know that she is especially interested in mental illness, and it is evident in her writing. Manz’s struggle with the voices in his mind is portrayed very well. In addition to the voices, he suffers from sever paranoia, and his faith in family and friends rapidly deteriorates as the novel progresses, making for very interesting and challenging reading. The reader cannot help but cringe as he lashes out at those people he previously loved and trusted.
The voice of Manz is less painful to read than that of Trudy, who narrates Anderson’s first novel. Despite his fear and his dementia, Manz is a very mature character. His ability to cope with adversity goes far beyond what a young teen’s should be, at least until his mental health (a hereditary issue, not a result of his situation) begins to decline. His thoughts are more proactive than Trudy’s. Rather than being a doe-eyed, helpless protagonist, he makes his best effort to think through his conflicts and act in an intelligent manner. I liked Manz a great deal.
It’s nothing to get excited about. I’d say only read it if you’re the kind of person who likes to support “the little guy.” Otherwise, there are numerous better books out there.