Return to Sender

Amelia Ausband


Tyler Paquette awoke to see a group of strangers trespassing on his family’s farm. Return to Sender, Julia Alvarez’s captivating and engrossing novel about family and friends tells the story of two sixth graders trying to deal with problems beyond their reach. Every moment I spent reading this book furthered my empathy for these characters. The problem of immigration from 12 years ago, when the book was written, is still a problem that we have in our world to this day.

With his Grandfather’s recent death in June and his father’s unfortunate accident on the farm which has rendered his right arm unusable, Tyler begins to wonder if he has been cursed. Over the summer there had been talk in the house of having to give up the farm because Tyler’s father was unable to work and his brother was leaving for college in September. Tyler refused to give up the farm, he wanted to save it no matter what. However, when the solution to all of Tyler’s problems come, new problems begin to blossom. Six new people arrive at the farm, three adult men, and three young girls, all Mexicans. The men start working for the Paquette farm while the girls start going to school, the same school as Tyler. Tyler begins to worry, he starts to question whether these people are here legally and if they are not, do his parents know that they aren’t here legally. Mari, the eldest of the three girls, starts to become friends with Tyler, who is in her class. However, Mari is scared as well, for a different reason than Tyler. Mari is scared that her mother, who is not with them, won’t be able to arrive in Vermont from Mexico. She is also scared that even if her mother does make it back, they will all be forced to leave and return to Mexico. However, Mari’s younger sisters were both born in America and are official citizens, which complicates things further.

I greatly enjoyed Return to Sender, as it shone a light on important issues in a way that was clear to understand. The issue of immigration is a problem that is very controversial, but equally important.Return to Sender reinforced how I felt about immigration, and that immigrants are treated unfairly. Alvarez wrote about believable characters with problems that many children have. Both Mari and Tyler face bullying, exclusion, disappointment, and many other issues that directly relate to real children. One of my favorite aspects of this book was how it was written. The perspective changes between Mari and Tyler telling the story, and the two write very differently. Tyler’s perspective is narrated in the 3rd person using pronouns such as him and them. However when Mari is speaking, she is writing a letter, hence the title Return to Sender. Whether Mari is writing to her mother or even the president, she is always able to slip in some Spanish to show how proud she is of her country. Return to Sender is a well-written book with themes of friends and family, that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction.