The Only Road

The Only Road

For Ages: 8 - 12
  • 9

“An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this “powerful and timely” (Booklist, starred review) middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. The story is “told with heartbreaking honesty,” Booklist raved, and “will bring readers face to face with the harsh realities immigrants go through in the hope of finding a better, safer life, and it will likely cause them to reflect on what it means to be human.”
  • Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481457514 | 
  • October 2017 | 
  • Grades 3 - 7 | 
  • Lexile ® 830L
List Price $8.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Only Road

By Alexandra Diaz

About the Book

Twelve-year old Jaime Rivera and his cousins Miguel and Ángela are a part of a close-knit family in Guatemala, but when Miguel is murdered after refusing to join a local gang involved in drug trafficking, their family is forced to make a heartbreaking decision. The Alphas have sent a message that if Jaime and Ángela stay in Guatemala, they will be next. The family has no choice but to send their children to cross the borders into Mexico and then the United States to live with Jaime’s older brother. The journey is difficult and dangerous, but their hope for a better life and the love of their family gives them the courage they need to escape.

Discussion Questions

1. Consider the book’s title. What causes Jaime and Ángela to leave Guatemala? Why do their parents believe that this choice is the only way out? Can you think of any other options for them?

2. Who are the Alphas? Why do they have so much power in Jaime’s village? Why can’t their parents just report the Alphas to the police?

3. What do Jaime and Ángela take with them in their backpacks? If you had to leave your home with nothing but a backpack, what would you bring with you?

4. Describe the sacrifices that Jaime and Ángela’s family had to make so their children can escape the Alphas see more

More Books from this Author

The Crossroads
El único destino (The Only Road)

About the Author

Alexandra Diaz
Owen Benson

Alexandra Diaz

Alexandra Diaz is the author of The Only Road, which was a Pura Belpré Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book, and the recipient of two starred reviews. She is also the author of Of All the Stupid Things, which was an ALA Rainbow List book and a New Mexico Book Award finalist. Alexandra is the daughter of Cuban refugees and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but got her MA in writing for young people at Bath Spa University in England. A native Spanish speaker, Alexandra now teaches creative writing to adults and teens. Visit her online at