Written by Meily Flores
The United States is often associated with the American Dream, which causes so many aspiring young immigrants to arrive in a country that is prejudice ridden, hoping to succeed. This can be seen in within Joshua Davis’s novel Spare Parts, where the narrative of four young undocumented men is told. Within the the novel the four boys: Luis Aranda, Oscar Vasquez, Lorenzo Santillan, and Christian Arcega, experience the prejudice through the oppressive nature of the location they reside in. Forced to live in an area where push-out rates are not only exceedingly high but also expected, the obstacles of education stand tall. Yet, despite all this a sense of motivation and determination is strong within the teenagers.
As the novel unravels, it transitions into the plot of the four teenagers joining a competition against esteemed universities. A distinct difference can be noticed between the robots of the middle-class and privileged students coming from the universities and colleges, versus the shanty and low budget robot of the undocumented high school students.
Eventually the plot progresses and we see how a very stereotypical ending, which ends off on a happy-go-lucky feeling that leaves the reader satisfied.
This was the main issue that arose with the overall novel, was the fact that the story is not really told from the perspective of the Davis, and does not really give true voice to the four Phoenix boy’s situations. The novel fails in some aspects to give a realistic sense of the true American Dream. The fact of the matter is that undocumented people who are living and being educated in impoverished communities are oppressed by prejudices which society engraves daily. Furthermore, immigrants who seek refuge and a better life in America, are usually forced to work dehumanizing jobs, which in turn lead for their kids to not seek or have actual goals.
The novel being well written and able to be related to on some aspects, failed to feel over all tangible with the realities of being an immigrant, and striving towards a better life. It was very much romanticized and/or glamorized. The true issues that arose later on were never spoken upon. One of which being the story of Oscar Vazquez. Even though Vasquez has recognized for his accomplishment of his contributing work in the robotics competition, the aftermath that would follow was never given enough recognition; ‘self-deportation’, was the struggle that Vasquez needed to endure in order to live his American Dream. So many undocumented immigrants like Vasquez himself, not only deal with the prejudices of constructed by those who will never experience true discrimination, but will later be a pariah in the U.S and have to marginalize themselves to try to fit into that same construct.
Therefore, Davis writes a quality novel when considering it was through the eyes of a privileged man, because he is able to create a glamorized version of the truth, which is in many ways inaccurate still worth the read, when considering the feat the four young men were able to accomplish with the countless constraints they had holding them back; the only problem truly being that it is not true reality or the actual unfair American Dream that so many deal with daily.
Overall the novel was entertaining when considering that it was quite a motivational book, and focused a lot on themes such as success of the the immigrant underdog. Peter Carlson for the Washington Post, too agreed that “Spare Parts is a delightful book, perfect for entertaining and inspiring high school kids. Davis writes well, and he keeps his plot moving swiftly.”(Carlson). Full of inspiration, the novel is very determined at making the reality nicer that it is. Again the novel is somewhat glamorized and swiftly moves along like a movie. Some may say that it fails to give emphasis to the underlying theme which basically supports the entire novel. A much slower and in depth look at the four boys’ lives would have created a stronger sense of connection between audience and characters.
In other words, Spare Parts, is riddled with the sense of omitted importance. The book does not give enough emphasis on the struggle that the young men have to deal with. In Peter Carlson’s article on Washington Post, he argues that his “only wish that he’d paused more often to quote these young men and let them tell us in their own words how they felt about their extraordinary experiences. They have a great story to tell — a great American story.” (Carlson). The primary idea centered around the novel is The American Dream, but time and time again fails at being able to be told by the boys themselves. The novel tends to become anticlimactic because Davis cannot give full vitality to the essential struggle, and it tends to come across as a bit forced or overlooked in general.