Juventud (Blakeslee)

Book Reviews
A harrowing, international coming-of-age story, Juventud is unforgettable, erotic, and suspenseful. I was willing to follow the protagonist Mercedes anywhere, into the Cali nightclubs, to her shooting lessons, into bed with her lovers, and to the dangerous activist meetings and rallies that mark a point-of-no-return in her adolescence. This novel is part political thriller, part love story. It kept me up at night and that's the highest praise.
Patricia Henley, National Book Award finalist, author of Hummingbird House and In the River Sweet
 

Riveting, readable, and refreshingly rendered with the news of the world, Vanessa Blakeslee’s remarkable debut novel takes us inside Colombia through the eyes of Mercedes, a privileged half-Colombian girl who leaves what once was the safety of Papi’s hacienda to embark on a life conflicted by both disappointments and splendid achievements. [...] As Mercedes searches for sanctuary in the world, her story echoes the conflicts of our 21st Century’s transnational, uneasy global culture. Juventud is an important novel for our times about the end of innocence.
Xu Xi, author of Habit of a Foreign Sky
 

Local indie press Curbside Splendor continues to distinguish itself as a literary trendsetter with Blakeslee’s debut novel, Juventud. This is an ambitious, wide-ranging story about a privileged young Colombian woman. Class, family ties, and the blinding optimism of youth: Blakeslee isn’t shying away from some of the big, timeless issues.
Christine Sneed - Newcity Lit


Juventud makes an excellent pairing with Netflix's series "Narcos," which begins a few decades earlier and traces the rise of the Medellín Cartel. While the series—shot in Colombia—focuses on those who drove and helped maintain the violence there, Blakeslee's novel traces its eventual effects on one young woman's life. Together (and with the caveat that both take some poetic license), they're a crash course in the history of a place I didn't know at all.
Margot Harrison - The First 50 Pages


There’s plenty of moral ambiguity in Juventud (Youth) as well, but Vanessa Blakeslee’s focus is on the experiences of her narrator, Mercedes Martínez, rather than in exposing and criticizing policy. From the opening pages, rich in detail and suspense, her novel is vivid and full of life…. If Juventud does have an agenda it must be this: As Colombia seeks peace–as in any other conflict zone on this earth–Blakeslee’s novel makes us ask how a person forgives and moves on when the truth remains veiled, when you can’t even be sure who or what is to blame and therefore who you must choose or refuse to forgive.”
Diane Lefer - LA Progressive

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