Oscar Hijuelos is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. This is his first book for young adults. Did you read The Outsiders in middle school? If you did, I bet you will like this book.
The main character is a light-skinned Cuban-American boy named Rico. His light skin is important because he is often mistaken for being white....in Rico's neighborhood that isn't a good thing. He lives in 1960's Harlem. It is a time filled with violence -- a shooting at school, a friend overdosing on drugs, and constant harassement. Rico is a smart boy and knows enough to know that he has to get out if he ever wants to make something of himself.
Somehow he convinces Jimmy (his overdosing friend) that they need to leave the streets of Harlem and move to Wisconsin. Yes....Wisconsin. Rico has a friend, Gilberto, who lives on a farm and attends Milton College. (Milton College is located near Madison. It operated as a college until 1982 when it had to close due to financial difficulties.)
Hitchhiking to Wisconsin makes for some funny plot lines. Life in Wisconsin of the 1960's has a much slower pace and near Madison the hippie life prevails. Gilberto puts them to work painting the farm and cleaning out the outhouse. Rico's parents don't know where he is...he didn't say goodbye or leave a forwarding address. So.........
Can you leave your problems behind and start over? Read the book see what happens to Rico.