The Book of Unknown Americans: How it Gets Us Thinking


The Book of Unknown Americans, a novel by Christina Henriquez, tells a not-so-simple story of a very simple family. At 286 pages long, this book is recommended for high school readers, but would still be appropriate for college students or even adult readers. 

This novel depicts the story of the Riveras, a family moving from Mexico to Delaware, trying to pursue a more successful recovery for their daughter, Maribel, after her head injury. Amidst the cold and unknown, while also missing the familiar friends and culture left in Mexico, the Rivera family adjusts to their new life, however, complex it may be, and learns the truth about the American Dream. 

The Riveras are not alone in their endeavors. Other families, most of whom are immigrants from Mexico with varying life stories, form an oasis during the frigid Delaware winter. Mayor Toro, a boy Maribel’s age, is one such character. A blossoming friendship between Maribel and Mayor creates new social dynamics that the Rivera and Toro families aren’t quite sure how to handle. Maribel and Mayor have to decide if their relationship is worth the struggle. But is any of this worth it? Will the Riveras manage to create a new life in America? Will Maribel recover? Or will this story end in tragedy, flushing years of work down the drain?

This story shows the greater reality of what it’s like to be an immigrant in America, allowing readers to either relate to or learn from the characters. How the world views America compared to the reality of life in America is a profound contrast that is often overlooked. While I enjoyed the overall theme of this novel, the plot felt slower and more uneventful than I would’ve liked, but that’s not to say everyone would agree with me. 

Overall I think this book is unique in its simplicity, as it focuses more on an overall theme than an eventful plot, allowing for deep reflection throughout the novel. It shows the ups and downs of life that may seem foreign to some. The struggles of being an immigrant are often overlooked and this book highlights them in a natural way by telling a story that I’m sure many people can relate to, at least partially. 

I would rate this book three stars. I loved the unique perspective and the overall theme of this book, but for my personal taste, I found it to be much slower than I prefer while lacking an enriching plot.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐