I respect the themes Francisco X. Stork explores in this novel, namely that this book is a modern day version of the film Boys Town
, the story of Father Flanagan and those boys, and I especially liked the concept of the death warriors…feeling gratitude and loving life at all times and in all circumstances, fighting to experience the “marrow of life”—carpe diem. I also truly loved D.Q. But, there’s one technical aspect of this novel that just doesn’t really work for me, and unfortunately, it happens to be the basic foundation of the book: the execution of Pancho’s story.
The book’s told in third person, but from Pancho’s point of view. The narrator constantly reinforces the idea that at seventeen, Pancho’s not very academically gifted. It’s stated that it took Pancho nearly a year to read one book. He misinterprets various statements told to him in conversation. When Pancho tries to reply, he gets the words wrong. For instance, he interprets words like “context” as “contest,” “hunk” as “honk,” and has no idea what the word “aviary” means. And there’re many more examples like this throughout the novel. In some instances, he’s even corrected by an eight-year old girl. Even though he’s essentially our main protagonist, he’s not very verbose, only offering brief responses to questions, or completely ignoring the various people who are addressing him. He’s also described as being very standoffish—the kind of person who looks like he’s always trying to pick a fight with you. Yet, for some inexplicable reason people like him, and even fall in love with him….
Yet, at times the narrator seems to forget these facts. The narrator, when he describes Pancho, often projects complex thoughts and feelings onto this character that juxtapose the other image the narrator is also constantly trying to reinforce throughout the book. Reinforcing the negative elements—Pancho’s impulsive drive for revenge, his standoffish nature, his lack of understanding—while at the same time accentuating the positive just doesn’t work here. One cancels the other out, leaving the reader confused as to what to believe and to make of this character. At times, it almost seems like Stork forgot he was writing about Pancho, accidentally slipping into D.Q.’s perspective. Further evidence to support this is the epilogue, which contains the journal entry Pancho writes to his sister. When the narrator describes Pancho writing, he states that Pancho writes slowly, but it doesn’t take him very much effort. Another incongruous image. When the entry's finally reproduced, apart from three spelling errors and lack of comma usage, it’s very articulate—not a piece of writing you’d really expect coming from a boy who has difficulty reading and conversing with others. Typically writing is harder for someone who has troubles with literacy. I just don’t understand why the narrator had to keep reminding the reader of this particular aspect of Pancho’s character? Stork seems to be going against convention through his characterization of Pancho. And because of this, the story’s not very believable.
Apart from that, this is an interesting book. However I almost wish Stork told the story from D.Q.’s point of view rather than Pancho’s. Also, the ending’s not very conclusive, with no real resolution as to what will happen next for D.Q., his mother, Pancho and Marisol. Ultimately, I think the book’s OK, but I also believe it could have been so much better.