The Garden of Second Chances

A Novel

Young Adult - Social Issues
376 Pages
Reviewed on 01/22/2023
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

After decades of working with incarcerated youth and raising three creative kids as a single parent, Mona is fulfilling her passion for writing fiction.

She is a member of SCBWI, Macondo Writers, and a co-founder of #LatinxPitch, an annual Twitter pitch event.

Mona writes to amplify the voices of underrepresented young women.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Garden of Second Chances is a work of fiction in the social issues and interpersonal drama subgenres. It is intended for the older end of the young adult reading audience and contains no graphic material, but does make strong references to racial slurs, profanity, and issues of violence in prison settings. This unique and insightful tale, penned by Mona Alvarado Frazier, explores the results of immigration laws and wrongful imprisonment. Our protagonist, Juana Ivanov, finds herself incarcerated in California when she flees from her abusive husband and he dies, leaving Juana’s young baby in the care of her sister back in Mexico. Navigating prison life is hard enough, but then there’s the big wide world and what comes after she is released to deal with as well.

Mona Alvarado Frazier offers a deeply emotive and realistic work of fiction that young adult and adult audiences alike will find much to enjoy and consider when reading. A heartfelt tale with a likable and relatable protagonist, Juana’s struggles are beautifully and soulfully narrated. There’s a raw emotive fashion that sometimes cuts through the narrative to remind us that there are real people in similar situations in our world right now, much in the way that modern great writers like Angie Thomas have done recently. The author is a similarly powerful and empowering voice, delivering a detailed plot and interesting drama that we can learn from as much as we’re hooked by it. The Garden of Second Chances is a highly recommended read for fans of accomplished YA dramas and socially conscious fiction.

Jamie Michele

The Garden of Second Chances by Mona Alvarado Frazier is contemporary Young Adult fiction that revolves around a young mother named Juana Ivanov and how a single moment can change the course of an entire life. Juana just wants to take care of her family and get a prosthetic for her disabled Papá. She leaves her infant daughter with her sister so she can try to sort out her abusive, alcoholic, jobless husband and get them all back on track...but in a cruel twist of fate, her husband ends up dead and Juana ends up in prison. Between gangbangers, prison culture and hierarchy, language barriers, legal and prison battles, immigration pitfalls, and loved ones who have disowned her, Juana must fight not just for herself, but for her daughter. First, though, she has to survive.

Oh my gosh, this book! As a mother to a young woman of color, The Garden of Second Chances is exactly the type of novel I hope to come across in a slush pile of books that try hard to get there but never really do. Mona Alvarado Frazier is masterful with tension and is able to thread it through every single page. Depictions of life in prison are painfully raw and have an authenticity to them that feels so real you almost want to take a shower to wash the grit off your own body...but you can't because that would mean setting the book down, and there's no way you'll be able to do that. Juana has a tenacity that blends beautifully with an empathetic character foundation. She is too young to have lived so many lives and has so much responsibility for others that when she falls, so too does the house of cards that's been built on her back. Some of the scenes are heartbreaking and others are infuriating, and often they are both. I nearly broke my e-reader when Juana is not only refused a grievance pass to go to a hearing about her daughter but ends up shackled and in segregation for no other offense than begging for reconsideration. The indignity is appalling. The integrity of Juana is admirable. Very highly recommended.

Grace Ruhara

The Garden of Second Chances by Mona Alvarado Frazier is the heartfelt story of Juana Ivanov. She finds herself in the San Bueno Correctional Facility, not because she killed her husband but because she did not. No one seems to listen to or believe her, and she has to serve six years in prison. She has to persevere with an inmate's life and bear the heartache of being so far from her daughter, Katrina. Luckily, there's a possibility her sentence can be reduced to two to three years. She's over the moon until her mother-in-law is determined to take full custody of her daughter. She must think fast and devise a plan to reunite with her daughter and get out as soon as possible. Do the stars align to grant her wishes in the nick of time?

What I loved about The Garden of Second Chances by Mona Alvarado Frazier is intertextuality. Letters are used throughout the book to add to the story and give background information about the characters. The letters are engaging, provide a new direction to events, and create suspense in the storyline, making me curious to continue reading more and more to find out how the events unfolded. This made the reading experience fun and exciting throughout the novel. I also loved the dialogue between the characters. This helped advance the plot and foreshadow events, thus making the events feel real and relatable. Therefore, I recommend this novel to inmate parents separated from their children, family, and friends. This book gives them hope that there is always a fighting chance if only they will wait.