Book Review: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Uber-nerdy, lovelorn Oscar is not your typical Latino from the ghetto, which immediately set this book apart from others. Author Junot Diaz uses a realistic slang voice that further distinguishes the book from other tales of the working class. (It didn’t feel like a mom trying too hard to be hip with her daughter’s friends.) I think the feisty tone helped me absorb more of the Domincan history woven within the story…though I probably should have brushed up on my Spanish a little more to understand some of the words strewn throughout the book. 

Oscar believes his luckless life is due to his family’s curse. It is heartbreaking to watch this destiny play out, but more importantly you see how – cursed or not – your family’s past plays into your future. Should you even attempt to take destiny into your own hands? By the end of this book, my belief is yes – it’s worth a try in the effort to experience something wonderous, however brief. 

It’s received literary prizes galore, but my overall rating is 3.5 out of 5 stars. Good but not as fabulous as the hype implied. My mentee (who attends a high-risk school in the South Bronx comprised of mostly Hispanic and African American students) read this book in her English class this year. I think it is a great addition to the required reading list as it is written in a relatable voice that will keep them engaged. It may be pandering, but kids love reading a book that drops the F-bomb, so put it on your list, teachers!