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Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Physical violence (brutal fighting), semi-graphic wounds, scene of assault, mentions of bullying, racism/colorism, transphobia, homophobia, mentions of menstruation, abandonment

“The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.”

Be still my weeping heart! In all my years of reading retellings and fairy tales, Blaca y Roja is by far the best one I’ve read so far! McLemore has such a beautiful way of writing and the way she reimagined Snow-White and Rose-Red completely stole my heart away. This might be the best retelling I’ve read in a long, long time. The magic, the lyrical writing, the relationships and bonds, this book had everything that I love. Not even the multiple povs could sway my feelings about this book and yall know I’m not a big fan of multiple povs! This book will truly capture your heart!

“We had started to believe that Roja was the sister whose heart was a handful of hard red jewels, and I was the one as insubstantial as the hollow center of a cranberry. The lie of who we were had killed who we might have been. It had buried us. It stripped us down into girls uncomplicated enough to be understood.”

We follow two sisters, close as can be, who are destined to be torn apart by a curse that was placed upon their family. A curse that has happened for generations and marked the women, two daughters will always be born, but on one of those girls’ fifteenth birthday, the swans will come to claim one back. Many sisters formed rivalries, parents are turned against one another, but these daughters are choosing to take things into their own hands, they want to trick the swans. Hoping the swans will choose to leave them both alone and waiting until the next generation is to come. But this isn’t just a story of two sisters, this is a story of four people who’s destinies are all intertwined with one another, who are all feeling a little displaced, for multiple reasons.

🦢 Blanca – The “good” sister, light skin, fair, soft, and doing everything she can to prevent the swans from ever taking Roja away from her. The favorite of most of the women left of their family.

🦢 Page – A transboy, who uses he/she and him/her pronouns, and currently hiding from her family because even though they support Page in being trans, they don’t seem to understand why Page would still claim she/her pronouns.

“Him and her, I kinda like getting called both. It’s like all of me gets seen then. Doesn’t usually happen, though. Most people can’t get their head around boy and she at the same time, I guess.”

🦢 Roja – The fierce, angry, and stubborn younger sister with brown skin and deep red hair, the apple of her father’s eye, but no one else. Fighting tooth and nail to prevent the swans from ever claiming her and making her one of them.

🦢 Yearling – A boy from a terrible home life. He’s constantly physically fighting with his cousin, being egged on by his entire family, and due to suffering a loss of vision in his left eye, he struggles in day to day life. All he wants to do is escape his family, the name that cause people to be weary, and the secret and truth he knows about his family. After going into the woods to get lost, the woods ever listening, grants his wish.

All of these characters have their paths set, but the funny thing about paths… they tend to intertwine with others. And that’s exactly what happens with these characters. These four characters become tangling within each other’s destinies and realize, they need each other and care about one another. They’ll discover things about themselves, learn about unconditional love and what it means to sacrifice everything for those you love. Two beautiful romances will bloom, so beautifully and so eloquently written.

As I mentioned, this is a Snow-White and Rose-Red reimagined tale. This is McLemore’s ownvoices, Latinx, queer version of this fairy tale. And it’s everything. It’s truly everything you could want in a retelling, everything I wanted in a retelling! There’s themes of respecting people’s genders and sexuality journeys, how it’s fluid and how you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone especially if they don’t understand or accept you as you are. There’s also a huge theme of how we don’t have to be what our families, society, and the world wants us to be. We don’t have to fit that mold, we can be our own unique selves, and this book shows how you can break those cycles.

“We find what is beautiful in what is broken. We find what is heartening in what is terrifying. We find the stars in the woods’ deepest shadows.”

And this book shows us how everyone handles grief, pain, and trauma differently. That it’s okay to do so and you’re not alone in those feelings. This book reminds us that love and kindness are powerful forces that can heal even the most broken heart, how bonds of family (blood and found) plays a huge role in that and how it can change someone’s story completely. It’s the most powerful thing and McLemore conveys it so beautifully in this book.

Most importantly, this book is a love letter to all sibling bonds out there. Family is everything to me especially my siblings and I like to think I’m open about that, as much as I can be. I’m very protective of my siblings especially my younger brother and younger sister. And as the oldest sibling, I would do anything to make sure they were safe and could enjoy life to the fullest. I think I rave about sibling relationships every time I read a book with one in it (or the family dynamics). I’m also very open that I’m very white-passing. Everyone on my dad’s side is darker skin, mostly all dark hair, dark brown eyes. A lot of people wouldn’t know I’m Apache unless I was with my aunts because they fit the mold of what a Native American woman should look like. And I don’t fit that mold. I’m a white-passing, two-spirited, urban Apache woman and I constantly feel out of place. Yet, I will always acknowledge the privilege I have because of my white-passing and my biraciality, but my heritage and my family’s culture is very important to me. I was raised to always honor my heritage, my ancestors, and my family. And I think this book does such an amazing job at conveying all of this. This book really is about loving yourself, all parts of yourself, visible and non-visible, where you come from, and honoring your family. And if you couldn’t tell, this book really made me emotional and feel soft in all the spaces of my heart.

“They had seen in me the softest, weakest part of my heart where I held my sister. They knew I would do anything, give up anything, if it meant my sister keeping her own body. And now they wanted me to prove it.”

If there’s one thing that you take away from my review, let it be how much this book completely took me apart and stitched me back together. The way I fell in love with this book was so gentle at first and then hard. I don’t think there will ever be enough words to express how much this book means to me, what it made me feel, and how my heart is still weeping at how beautiful this story is. And as I mentioned before, this book is multiple perspectives. I’m not one to usually enjoy multiple perspectives, but the way McLemore wrote each perspective enchanted me from the beginning and stole my heart away. It takes a very special kind of book with multiple povs to make me fall in love with it and this book did just that. This book truly is a gift.

“It is about the sudden understanding that you are something other than what you thought you were, and that what you are is more beautiful than what you once thought you had to be.”

Overall, I loved this book so much! How could I not love this book? There’s no amount of words that can express the things this book made me feel, the whirlwind of making me come undone and putting me back together, this book truly is something special. I don’t think a book has ever made me cry this much before. This is probably the best retelling I’ve ever read and I think as readers, we sometimes forget the power of words, of books, and healing that can be found within the two. This book truly is a blessing and if you were looking for a retelling to pick up, let it be Blanca y Roja. It truly is a gift and I think I’m going to be shouting about this book for a long time.

Read for the Latinx Book Bingo 🧡

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