Flores-Galbis, Enrique. 90 Miles to Havana. New York: Holtzbrinck Publishing, 2010. Kindle Edition.
A boy named Julian has lived in Cuba with his parents and two brothers throughout his entire life. The political climate is deteriorating quickly due to the rise of Fidel Castro. In order to keep them safe, Julian’s parents send him and his two brothers to Miami, Florida via Operation Pedro Pan, where they will live in a refugee camp until their parents can also move to America. While they are living at the camp, the three face bullies, the dictator-like camp director, and the threat of being separated from each other.
90 Miles to Havana is based heavily upon author Enrique Flores-Galbis’ own escape from Cuba during Operation Pedro Pan, which I believe added an extra layer to the story. Knowing that many of these things probably happened made the book seem a lot more real. All I knew about Cuba was that we had some kind of embargo with them, so it was very interesting to learn about its history and that the rise of the Communist government affected so many people. In particular it made me think about how Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are loved by a lot of people today while we seem to have forgotten how many lives they ruined. Julian came from a middle-class family and they had to make many sacrifices. Of course, there is always another perspective, and like I said before, I know next to nothing about Cuban history.
Even though I enjoyed learning about Cuban history, the majority of the book itself was lacking. It was written for more of a middle grade audience, so the sentence structure was very simple and some of the problems were more juvenile, making it difficult for me to relate. I did feel for the characters and the situation that they were put in and I wanted everything to turn out okay, but I didn’t care about the overarching plot. In short, it was rather boring. The only thing that kept me going was the desire to see the family reunite. Nonetheless, I think a younger audience would enjoy it very much, and I think that they should read it. It would be a great book to teach in schools in order to give younger students a look at Cuban history and culture.
One of my goals for my book pages adventure was to read diversely, and this book definitely fits the bill. I don’t really see, hear, or read much about Cuba during any time period, so it was a very nice change of pace.