Two Boys and the Rustlers by Carol Elek


boysIn 1852 California, it was every man for himself, but in Carol J. Elek’s YA tale, Two Boys and the Rustlers, it was a couple of disparate youths who organized a personal rebellion. Beginning in the San Gabriel Valley of East Los Angeles, the author introduces a story of American migration and native communication before a couple of kids take a wrong turn and discover that a most deceitful foreman has taken a few liberties with the family cattle. Surprised yet ready to cash in, the rustlers find value in their uninvited guests and take them on a journey the boys won’t soon forget. Unfortunately for everybody involved, the flimsy plot for lasting wealth leaves a few people six feet under while thoroughly frightening the inherent vice. With plenty of land to roam and potential for new experiences, young Josh and Roberto find themselves in the middle of deadly scheme that will forever alter their formative years.

While the writing of Two Boys and the Rustlers may not inspire one to pick up a dictionary, it may inspire a future writer with its stripped down approach ala Ernest Hemingway. Elek certainly affords the characters a certain amount of depth, however when times get tough, there’s not enough personal background on the two boys for a truly emotional response to the text. Amongst all the death and life-changing events, the young protagonists seem content with their predicament, only to break down at the most opportunistic of times. With that being said, the author stays clear of safe decision-making for the boys and presents realistic scenarios that will challenge the minds of adolescent readers. Given the place and time of Two Boys and the Rustlers, Elek succeeds with her portrait of sunny skies, and the dark subtext will leave a few younger readers biting their fingernails. All in all, Two Boys and the Rustlers moves swiftly and produces a surprising final act.

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