Summary: During the summer leading up to her sixteenth birthday, Aurora (known as Roar) witnesses a fatal accident that needlessly takes the life of a young Mexican mother. Roar’s father is a lawyer and an activist and is determined to make sure Tomás and his daughter Rosa receive compensation for the loss of their loved one though they are living in California and Thomás is an undocumented worker. As Roar meets and falls in love with Forest, the son of the woman whose reckless driving is responsible for the death, her world becomes tangled up in her dad’s. But Roar’s perpective is best viewed through the lens of her camera, and as the summer progresses she deals with her first relationship, finally coming to terms with her mother’s abandonment and renewing her relationship with her dad.
Number of Pages: 279
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Set in farming community of California, All You Get is Me by Yvonne Prinz explores the real challenges of using illegal, Mexican immigrants as undocumented workers to tend to and harvest the crops. The double standard that exists is startling, as while the workers are necessary for the care of a farm, they are exploited at every turn. When Tomás’ wife is killed in an car accident by a white woman, there is some doubt about whether he will ever see justice. But Roar’s dad is determined to strike a blow for workers’ rights in the state, even though the struggle itself seems to affect everyone but him.
This is only a piece of the story though. The other part of the story is about Roar, a fifteen year-old girl who has been moved to a farm on the whim of her father to become an expert in organic farming. Her mother is long gone, and while Roar waits in vain to hear from her, she experiences many moments of grief over her mother’s absence. Used to being a city girl, Roar takes time to adjust to feeding chickens and learning to grow crops.
But while her father is a champion for the workers and for organic farming awareness, he is missing out on Roar’s life. Roar learns things are more complicated between her parents than she thought, and her growing beauty is a painful reminder for her father of the love that he has lost. It is clear both have been profoundly affected by Roar’s mother’s absence, and trust in others is something that needs to be developed. Perhaps this is why Roar herself is an observer, preferring to view the world through a camera lens and taking pictures that capture rare moments of honest emotion.
Reading Prinz’s book just makes me want more. I’ve read Vinyl Princess by her as well, and she creates wonderful, empowering female characters that are easy to care about. With the background of learning about the Mexican workers and American attitudes toward illegal immigration, I was hooked. I loved the nickname of Roar, because in her own way she does roar and makes herself be heard. This was a happy re-read for me, as I enjoyed the vibrancy of the story and how Prinz makes farm life come alive.
There is also a romance with some physical involvement, which is why I have placed the age range in the 15-17 group. Roar meets Forest knowing his mother is responsible for Thomás’ wife’s death, but they still connect and friendship blossoms quickly into Roar’s first relationship.
“Being loved by someone who isn’t your parent, someone who wanders into your life and slowly comes to know you and understand you, is sort of like being reborn. You walk around knowing that under his gaze, you are lovable, desirable, interesting, funny, and beautiful. No one has ever looked at me like this before. No one has ever made me feel this way with just a few words or a glance or a touch. The whole concept of two people falling in love like in the movies or on TV has always seemed so stupid to me. I’d roll my eyes and look away. But this thing I have with Forest is much more than TV love. It feels real. I love the way I feel knowing that someone is thinking about me this way. It makes me see myself in a whole new way.” – Roar from All You Get is Me by Yvonne Prinz, page 188
“As I sit on the dirt floor, I think about how, until yesterday, I unconsciously reserved a place on this farm for mom even though I had no idea if she’d ever see it. I often picture her taking part in the victories and the losses of our little operation, and whenever I did a chore or took on a project, I carried on a running dialogue, explaining in detail what I was doing, as I imagined my mother looking on with interest, eager to learn. Even the little things like planting a seedling properly or hanging out the laundry or removing the corn from a cob, I would share all of it with her. And now, twenty-four hours after our conversation, all that is in the past. I’m the ‘woman’ of the farm now. I feel a sense of loss but I also feel oddly powerful. No matter what I do in my life, I’ll always know that I can do almost any job on a farm that a man can do and I can probably do it just as well. I made my dad feel bad about dragging me out here but I was only trying to punish him. There’s something about farmwork that makes you feel whole and strong. Maybe it’s the closeness to the earth, maybe it’s just being out here in all this open space, but now that I’ve lived this way I can’t imagine not living this way.” – Roar from All You Get is Me by Yvonne Prinz, page 232
“One of the things that you learn when you live on a farm is that change comes at you whether you’re ready for it or not. Every season is punctuated with its own smells and tastes and you find yourself looking forward, waiting for the next thing to come along so you can take a bite of it. When we lived in the city, this marking of the seasons didn’t seem to happen to us. We drifted from one season to the next without thinking about it too much. This life is very different. It’s so much more than putting on a sweater or grabbing an umbrella. It’s about setting your internal clock to the sun and the moon and the seasons. The longer I do it, the better I understand it. It’s not something you can teach. You have to live it.” – Roar from All You Get is Me by Yvonne Prinz, pages 263-264