Road Trip Return is a middle-grade novel by Becca Wierwille featuring a trip to Guatemala, themes of forgiveness and acceptance, and Latino characters.

Daniel has been raised by his older brother Mateo since he was a baby, when his mother passed away and his father returned to his home country of Guatemala. Now, 12-year-old Daniel is resistant to the idea that Mateo is getting married to Skylar, a pink-haired free spirit and aunt to his best friend Kimmy. When Skylar disappears a week before the wedding, Daniel accompanies Mateo, Kimmy, and her parents to Guatemala to find her. While they are there searching for Skylar and their father, Daniel does everything in his power to secretly sabotage the search. I found myself wincing as I read all of the ideas Daniel had to try to prevent his brother from getting married. The story brings together multiple storylines to demonstrate the power of forgiveness.

Now, to the fun part! Most of the book is set in Guatemala, a country that I hold in a very special place in my heart. It is told from the perspective of a second-generation immigrant to the US who does not speak Spanish and has never been to the country where his parents and brother were born. It was beautiful how the author naturally wove in Spanish words that were significant to the culture, and how readers could learn the words along with Daniel, who was seeing it for the first time.

I absolutely loved the descriptions of the landscape, people, food, and culture. It was very evident that the author has spent significant time in the country, and read like a love letter to Guatemala.

I especially enjoyed the description of the "chicken buses," the brightly-painted school buses which are such an iconic part of Guatemala. As she described how a camioneta can never be too full, it brought back so many memories of three adults in every seat, plus people standing in the aisle, and a man squeezing through to ask for payment, as we raced other buses to the next stop, praying we wouldn't go off the edge of the steep drop-off. Vendors selling through the windows, animals on people's laps, and so many smells. This scene made me smile. 

The descriptions of Lake Atítlan and Panajachel were so beautiful and had me itching to go back to Guatemala. I also appreciated the disability awareness, as one character has a limb difference, and the protagonist appears to have a sensory processing disorder. This was all handled in such a graceful way, and made the characters seem even more real. What a wonderful book, and one that I thoroughly recommend!

Order your copy of this book on Kickstarter! The campaign finishes up on May 2, 2024.