4.5 starsWhen Pancho's father and older sister both die a few months apart from one another, Pancho is sent to orphanage St. Anthony's. Pancho isn't interested in making friends with the other boys, intent on getting justice for his sister, who he believes was murdered. But oddball D.Q. is determined to befriend him, and before too long Pancho finds himself accompanying D.Q. to Albuquerque for D.Q.'s cancer treatments. While there, he hopes to find the man who killed his sister and exact his revenge, but he is sidetracked by caring for D.Q., helping out with the kids at the outpatient care facility Casa Esperanza, and becoming reluctantly closer to Marisol, Casa Esperanza staff member and D.Q.'s crush. Pancho must choose between vengeance and becoming a Death Warrior who (according to D.Q.) acknowledges the existence and inevitability of death but doesn't give in to it, vowing to live life to the fullest.The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is a multidimensional novel full of complex characters who grow and change throughout the novel. Pancho's struggle is both believable and relatable, and each of the entire cast of characters from cancer patient Josie to D.Q.'s mother Helen is vividly drawn. The book balances the heavy subjects of cancer, death, and revenge with enough humor and lightness to keep the book from being overwhelmingly depressing while still giving the subjects the gravity and consideration they deserve.I really loved this book. I only gave myself one day to read it, and I wish I had had longer, to give the story and the prose longer to sink in. I could relate to Pancho, D.Q., and Marisol. All three of these characters were flawed, and I liked all three anyway, which is unusual for me (not that I don't like flawed characters, but in any given novel there's usually at least one character I don't particularly care for). I really think that this novel is one that can transcend boundaries of race, age, gender, and even, to a certain extent, reading level. If I taught a high school English class, I'd be making note of this one and planning to teach it.