#1832. Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream. (2014). Davis, Joshua. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 224 pp. $14.00. ISBN: 978-0-374-53498-1.

Gina Salazar, Mustang Success Center, Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo, [email protected]

The American Dream. This definition brings different meanings to mind for people. Joshua Davis’ (2014) Spare Parts gives advisors insight to this definition from the eyes of four undocumented high school students. In addition, the author offers advisors an awareness of the role college plays in achieving the American Dream. Spare Parts provides a look into each student’s background and the meaningful relationships formed with one another and two teachers through a robotics club. Through these relationships growth emerges; both on an academic and personal level. However, as the reader approaches the latter half of the book they find these students are shaken awake from their American Dream upon high school graduation when the futures they hoped are jeopardized as a result of being undocumented.

 The first several chapters introduce each character’s background. The chapters are short and tend to jump quickly so taking notes and identifying key points along the way helps to keep things in perspective. Once invested in the book the characters become more distinct and the storyline evolves as the students develop rapport and trust in one another as they prepare for the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Robotics Competition. Davis provides the reader with a front row seat as the students beat all odds and not only create a robot on an extremely limited budget, but go on to win the competition against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The confidence and success of these four students is a beautiful reflection of the influence of dedicated teachers who believe in them. Spare Parts allows advisors to see how an educational mentor can truly inspire students and make a difference in their lives. In the advising role, advisors have the chance to be such mentors and advocate for students. Spare Parts is a reminder that advisors, like teachers, are in a daily position that offers the opportunity to not only encourage students, but to also provide them with the tools and resources for success. Davis illustrates the kind act of a teacher that takes the time to show one of the students how to tend the fish tanks. The learning opportunity that the teacher provides results in the student feeling acknowledged, important, and proud to master a skill (p. 72). Advisors hold the same opportunity to prepare and empower students to navigate their college career.

The author does an excellent job of engaging the reader in the academic side of the story, and also the political climate throughout the years. Davis discusses Arizona’s Proposition 200 and 300, as well as the DREAM Act. He also illustrates the atmosphere in Phoenix by discussing the Arizona State Bill 10170. The storyline continues after the MATE Robotics Competition. The last portion of the book allows the reader the opportunity to see the life path of each character. As the book comes to an end it is revealed that only one of the lead characters persists to college graduation, but not without much hard work, sweat, and tears. The author touches briefly on the outcome of the other characters. As a result, the end of the book appears a bit rushed and lacking in some respects, but not enough that it takes away from the strengths of how the author presents the story. Spare Parts comes highly recommended. The reading is an example of how educators/advisors positively influence the lives of students. The book is a great reminder to advisors of the role they play in their students’ pursuit of the American Dream.   

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