At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: "you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can't take the barrio out of the girl." Even though she's getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a "chicana from Beverly Hills" because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceaera.
Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What's a girl to do?
*May Contain Spoilers*
Sandra C. Lopez tells the astounding story of one girl who rises above the strife of growing up in a poor Los Angeles community with her novel, Beyond the Gardens. Esperanza has always focused on building a better future for herself and when she is accepted into an animation program at college, she knows she's on the right track, but her fear threatens to throw her back. Can she accept her past enough to escape it? And will she have the strength to move on when given the option?
Esperanza is a Latina Californian who has a past that plays a very present role in her life. She grew up in a poor family with a mother who struggled everyday to provide for her family. Esperanza's father was abusive and though he's in prison, she still has to face those scars everyday. Readers will easily connect with Esperanza on an intimate level. She's a person who wants more but is afraid of the hand-slap that will surely come if she reaches for it. Though she doesn't let it hold her back. Esperanza takes each fear and molds it into inspiration. She's a character full of so much hope that readers will instantly connect with her, cheering for her to take each step toward a happier life.
The plot of the novel follows Esperanza through all four years of college. Readers witness her struggle, face her fears, forgive the past, and form her own path for the future. Beyond the Gardens is an inspiring coming-of-age novel. The dialogue can be a little awkward at times, even a little 'cheesy,' but it takes nothing away from the message of this novel: with a little hope and hard work, anyone can achieve their dreams.
Rating: 3.5/5 Cups