Jonathan LaPoma

Author / Screenwriter / Songwriter

Understanding the Alacran

Trying to escape the oppression leading him to drinking, drugs, and despair, 22-year-old William James rejects a teaching position offer at a prestigious Buffalo high school and moves to Mexico to find freedom in its beaches, mountains, and culture.

But soon, this freedom becomes oppressive as well as William finds himself unable to avoid the pull of the wild party scene in the small town of Lila where he lives. He continues a downward spiral until he meets a complex and compassionate Mexican woman whose love inspires him to face the question he’s been avoiding: Is this trip a desperate search for life or a slow death?

A dark but humorous coming-of-age novel, Understanding the Alacrán explores many of the questions that haunt young people searching for love and their place in this world, and offers a poetic look at the raw beauty and healing power of Mexico.

*Understanding the Alacrán is the third book in a loosely-linked series with Hammond and The Summer of Crud as books one and two, and Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story and The Soul City Salvation as books four and five. Each novel can be read independently of the others.



Read the First Two Chapters of UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN


  • #1 Amazon Best Seller (Metaphysical, Metaphysical & Visionary, and Religious & Inspirational Kindle categories)
  • Silver Medal Winner of the 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards (contemporary/literary category)

LaPoma obviously knows Mexico well, framing the nation not by its problems but by the hearts of its people . . . the descriptions of Mexican locales are as vibrant, colorful, and illuminating as the novel’s unique characters. The author can write about serious things with humor, and Will’s tale shows an understanding of Mexico that goes beyond the ordinary.

–Kirkus Reviews 

I loved Understanding the Alacran. Loved. It. . . beautifully written, funny, moving and all-round wonderful coming of age story. LaPoma has done an excellent job in creating characters that his readers will be able to connect with, relate to and truly come to care about. Absolutely read this book. . . My very highest recommendation.

–Chris Fischer, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars

LaPoma takes time to create a sense of people, place, and why situations evolve; not just how – and these elements are what gives the story added value and impact as the landscapes of Mexico and William’s psyche immerse readers in the mental and physical atmosphere of the story . . . an appealing, engrossing story that moves beyond the traditional coming of age approach to add social and cultural concerns into the mix . . . Given the latest state of affairs between the U.S. and Mexico, its undercurrent of social understanding and issues mixed with psychological examination makes it an especially relevant, timely read.

–Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

Unique and accessible . . . brilliant story that explores the evil of drugs, a man’s struggle for freedom, and redemption through love . . . the finish is awesome.

–Divine Zape, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars

I enjoyed the protagonist’s journey, the passage from despair to hope, and above all, the search for inner freedom. Readers will also love the compelling characters and the way the author captures Mexican culture, its beautiful setting with its smells and sounds in this inspiring tale . . . a wonderful coming-of-age story.

–Arya Fomonyuy, Readers Favorite, 4 Stars

The writing is engaging, with the right flow and a dose of dark humor to make it an enjoyable read that I would recommend.