The ending is strong with Carlos learning to have courage and face the future. Some of the free verse is beautiful and other times not memorable. The author does an excellent job of showing a young boy that is afraid of losing his mother and the focus is on this versus the atrocities of war. The genocide is discussed only from the eyes of soldiers that say they saw bodies piled up by the lake. While some parents might not like the violence in the book it isn't graphic. Carlos describes the sounds he hears such as gunfire and laughter. He knows that bad people are in the village because no one he knew would laugh when guns were going off.
As a whole the story works, but there is not a lot of backstory. The Author's Note at the end explains the history behind what happened in Guatemala that helps the reader a bit in understanding what happened during their Civil War. The book only took me about an hour to read and is good for discussion topics on war, survival, responsibility, and courage, to name a few. Readers intimidated by a lot of text might like this as one.