The Everything I Have Lost

By: Sylvia Zéleny

Julia comes of age in the murder capital of the world. Where is her father? Why are they shooting guns? Who are “they”?



Teaching Guide, created by Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Julia comes of age in the murder capital of the world. Where is her father? Why are they shooting guns? Who are “they”?

Julia’s best friend is her diary. She calls it “My Everything” —twelve-years-old at its beginning and fifteen at the end— a girl at the beginning, a young woman at its end, knowing more than she ever wanted to know.

Julia tells her diary everything about growing up in Juárez. At first, her family loses their house and their car, then suddenly her father is making lots of money. The family has a new car and a new house. It doesn’t make sense. Her father’s gone a lot, and her mother is always distracted and worried, busy creating art and wondering where her husband is.

Life in Julia´s urban neighborhood is strange too: there are shootings in the middle of the street, cars and neighbors disappear, pet cats and entire homes are left behind. Girls are disappearing somewhere in the city. She hears people saying that drug cartels rule the streets, but who are they? She only knows that she and her brother can’t play outside. And she is becoming a young woman in the midst of this confusion and uncertainty.

She wants to move across the river to the United States where her aunt and cousins live. Julia writes about all this and about things she overhears, things she doesn’t quite understand, and things she simply tries not to think about. Then her father vanishes for real and Julia and her brother go to live with her aunt in El Paso. What’s happened to Dad? Will he come back? Nobody wants to answer. And Julia can only make lists of those things she loses.

Awards and Accomodations

Skipping Stones Honor Award, Multicultural and International Books

1 review for The Everything I Have Lost

  1. Publishers Weekly
    Conveying the grim challenges Julia faces, Zéleny creates a fierce, funny, and full-of-feeling protagonist whose staccato diary entries pull the reader along.

    Zéleny’s lively novel, written in the form of a diary, captures Julia’s voice perfectly as she matures. Julia’s life is very different from most readers, but Zéleny’s approachable, inviting writing makes it resonant on a broad scale.

    Foreword Review
    The Everything I Have Lost captures a girl’s blossoming understanding of violence, family dysfunction, and what it means to grow up. —Aimee Jodoin

    Latinx In Publishing
    Sylvia Zéleny makes her claim as one of the true contemporary voices to be heard on the US Mexican border. Her powerful stories are not to be missed and will hold canon for many young readers looking to identify with text for and by their own culture…The Everything I Have Lost is a beautifully sublime story of a young girl coming of age en la frontera.—Chelsea Villarreal

    YA Books Central
    The journal format is perfect and is sure to resonate with readers. You’re sucked right into Julia’s life. —Kim Baccellia

    Midwest Book Review
    [A]n inherently riveting read that radiates a realism that engages the reader’s total engagement and absolute attention from first page to last.—Susan Bethany

    Reading Style
    Zéleny’s prose is poignant and piercing in its honesty and humanity. A story that readers will not soon forget.—Barbara Moon

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