I just finished reading "Red Midnight" by Ben Mikaelsen (2002). My young friend J (17 years old) was reading it for high school. He was quite enthusiastic about this book so I thought I'd give it a read. It is about a young man named Santiago, about J's age who is an "indigeno" in Guatemala in 1981. During this time, government forces committed many atrocities on native people, in the name of preventing the spread of communist regimes in central America. One night soldiers descend upon Santiago's village, killing everyone and burning the village to the ground. Santiago manages to escape, along with his sister Angelina.
They take a sea kayak, called a "cayuco" that an uncle had built, and attempt an escape to America by sea. This requires great courage and perseverance by Santiago. As I read the book, it occurred to me why J might like this book. Santiago is a character that J can relate to. J is at a stage in his life where he is venturing into the unknown, and having to learn new things fast. There is some danger. J is physically strong and resourceful like Santiago, and rises to the challenges as they present, with a confidence that calmly accepts what is required. J also has the qualities of duty to family and tenderness, as did Santiago. Thanks J for a good book recommendation, and best of luck to you as you set sail on your great adventure of life.