The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
Like a lot of great books, this one is hard to quickly describe, hard to ‘sell’ in a few paragraphs. And like a lot of great books, it’s the one that I want most to sell—the one you’ll get most out of when you read it.
Pancho’s got a sad life. His hardworking, sometimes misused father died in an accident. Pancho takes over responsibility for his mentally disabled older sister, Rosa. When she is murdered, he feels some responsibility—he hadn’t been paying attention to details that indicated she was in danger. Alone, his only choice is to go live in St. Anthony’s Home, a Catholic boys’ orphanage. There he rediscovers his love of fighting. He also finds that he has the job of caring for D.Q., who’s dying of a brain cancer. This job may give Pancho the opportunity to find his sister’s killer, who walks freely since the police consider her death an accident.
Caring for D.Q. turns out to be a much weirder job than Pancho expected. He’d never wanted to be in charge of a sick person, but D.Q. also has specific ideas about the best way to die. Plus, he never shuts up. He’s been writing the ‘Death Warrior Manifesto’—a guide to living fully while dying—and he tells Pancho that he, too, is a death warrior. Pancho is to help D.Q. reconnect with the lovely Marisol, a girl he’d met in Albuquerque at a home-away-from-home from cancer patients. Meanwhile, Pancho has to deal with D.Q.’s mother, a now wealthy woman, who dumped D.Q. in the orphanage when he was a child.
Now, you know that when a guy meets a girl as wonderfully compassionate and beautiful as Marisol, he’s going to fall for her himself. But what is real friendship when your buddy is dying? Do you talk honestly about the girl you both love? After all—D.Q.’s warrior manifesto is starting to make sense. There’s faith and there’s forgiveness, and Pancho’s got to decide if he’s going to live like a true death warrior or continue to be the kind of fighter who can’t do more than throw angry punches at the world.
You’ll love the depth of these characters and become entangled in their quest to love life, even in the most difficult situations. If you only read one book this summer, make it this one.