Pancho Sanchez and Daniel Quentin (a.k.a. D.Q.) are an unusual pair. Pancho is a 17-year-old teen with a difficult past. His mother died when he was just five, his father was recently killed in a terrible freak-accident, and his developmentally delayed sister died - or, according to Pancho, was murdered - just three months later. D.Q. has been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer that is nearly always terminal, and lives at St. Anthony's, and orphanage for teenage boys, although his mother is alive, well, and desperate to have D.Q. back in her life. D.Q., on the other hand, wants nothing to do with his mother, and has agreed to spend his summer undergoing an experimental treatment according to her wishes in exchange for emancipation.
Their unlikely partnership begins when D.Q. requests that Pancho, who has just moved into St. Anthony's, spend the summer working as his aide, to keep him company while he receives his treatments in Albuquerque. Pancho agrees, especially when his search into his sister's death leads him to believe that the man who was with Rosa when she died is living there. While D.Q. is focusing on becoming a "death warrior" by living every moment of what life he has left, Pancho has resigned himself to effectively ending his by killing the man who killed his sister, with no hope of not getting caught. In the end, both boys are challenged and changed in their views of themselves and what they want for their futures.
Stork manages to work in a wide variety of issues and themes into The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, some of them heavy-handed, and some of them running just under the surface. With death an ever present reality for both boys, issues of faith and future are a constant question, although formal religion is only faintly present. Stork deftly works in depictions of class, race, and economic disparity between the characters, and subtly references how much of an impact these factors have on how the characters see, experience, and are treated by the world around them. The fact that the character's names are an allusion to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza remind you to focus on the journey that they take, and to look critically at how they create their own realities. This is a great book for adults and teenagers alike, and forces you to ask the question of what it means to really live.
Submitted by Megan @ King