ALC provided by Libro.fm and Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review!
Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, physical assault, trauma and PTSD, domestic violence, parental death, loss of a loved one (in the past), mentions of deportation, racism, mentions of a car accident, mentions of graphic injuries, harassment, bullying, sexism, mentions of human experimentations, stalking, sex
I had never heard of this release until Libro. fm. I haven’t heard a lot of readers talking about this book, but I did have two friends reading it at the same time as myself. When I saw readers listing this as sci-fi, I got really nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m so glad that I picked this book up and gave it a listen! This is probably one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year, so far and I hope you all give this book a chance!
Before I start, I just want to say how grateful I am that the author took the time to list content and trigger warnings at the beginning of the book. Not many authors do this, so I really wanted to make a space to show my appreciation and say how important this is. I do have a more thorough breakdown of content and trigger warnings listed above if you need specifics. But truly, this was one of the best things about this book!
Our story follows Sia Martinez, a Mexican-American teen, who’s still grieving the death of her mother, who was deported and died trying to make her way back to America from Mexico. Sia is constantly reminded of as she attends the same school with the son of the officer who deported her mother. She not only has the weight of the grief on her shoulders, but constantly deals with the bullying, racism, and harassment of her peers and the teachers at the school. Until Noah, the new kid, moves to school and suddenly the the things in Sia’s life start to change.
“My grandmother said there were countless worlds in addition to ours. The underworld, the ghost world, the world of beetles and bats and hummingbird moths. There’s a world for warlocks and brujas and one for coconut trees and even a world just for our dreams.”
I really appreciated Sia as our main character. For myself, personally, I think she was a perfect character to show a plethora of emotions and internal feelings in various situations. Most of the time, books don’t always show the full range of emotions teenagers and younger children can experience. Sia’s feelings are layered and deeply intertwined with one another, and I really loved that about her. However, I was hoping Sia would have been more vocal and stood up for herself more. The bond and routine Sia has with her father sort of builds up the idea that Sia would stand up for herself more often, challenge those who look down on her for who she is and her culture, and have a little more fight in her. However, I still enjoyed her character and really loved how we got to see the nerdy sides of her.
One of the biggest themes in this book is the friendship between Sia and Rose. They have been best friends for many years, but we see their friendship face hardships, independent struggles, and grow from those experiences. I find that it’s rare for books to show that friendships have many layers to them and they’re not always perfect. Their relationship felt so real and reminded me of one of my own friendships. With the conflict they encounter, it does take a bit, but eventually, Sia and Rose find their way back to one another and make amends. I also loved how we see the two of them navigate dating and trying to find a way to tell one another, balance time between each other and their relationships.
Speaking of dating, I didn’t read any of the blurbs or reviews for this book before listening to it, but when the SFF elements started appearing in this book, I was clutching my pearls. It made me so incredibly happy to see it. I think this is going to be an element that catches a lot of readers off-guard because it’s such a subtle element. However, I think it was beautifully established and I loved how it was woven into the story.
There’s also a beautiful theme of family throughout this entire book. I mentioned earlier that Sia and her father share a routine of practicing self-defense together. I really loved that little bit that shows that only only are they close, but Sia’s father wants her to be able to protect herself should anything happen when he’s not there. I really loved those moments with them and I loved how we get the widowed father household dynamic. I truly believe with my whole heart that single father households are very underrated in literature and don’t get the attention it truly deserves. So, I really appreciated seeing that element and seeing the bond these two characters have. Also, I really loved how we get constant references to Sia’s grandmother. I could feel the love radiate through the passages where Sia would reflect on something her grandmother said or had taught her. Those passages felt like a warm hug.
“And when we turn the lights out, I look at the stars out the window, wondering about how old they are. Do they fall in and out of love, do they tell stories? And which nebulae are their mothers, and do they long for their mothers so much, they feel like their hearts are breaking at every moment?”
Aside from all of this, the heart of this story is centered around the ways Mexican people view violent immigration and institutions. We also see the reality many immigrants face when someone they love is deported. We see the pain, the grief, and the loss that one experiences, but we also see the lengths someone would go to be reunited with those loved ones. I can’t speak any further on this because I’m not Mexican, Mexican-American, or an immigrant. However, I encourage you all to look at ownvoice reviewers and if you are an ownvoice reviewer, please link your review so I can help boost your voice!
I truly wish I could have given this a full five stars, but there was one thing that really shifted my feelings. This book is very much a genre-bending book! For the first half of this book, it reads like a contemporary book. The first half explores grief, trauma, love, and friendship. While the second half of this book has a lot of action and science fiction elements woven throughout the story. My real struggle was the sudden shift into the sci-fi elements. I’m not much of a sci-fi reader and when I do read sci-fi, it’s usually a struggle for a plethora of reasons. I wish this book would have stayed with the contemporary genre more than adding the sci-fi elements to it because I have no doubt I would have given this five stars. However, with the sci-fi elements, I felt like I was getting whiplash a few times and I started to lose interest in the characters. Whereas before, I was fully invested in the characters, the story line, and what would happen next. I also felt like certain details around the characters and story line got lost on me because of the sci-fi elements. However, I still enjoyed the story despite my conflict with the second half of this book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the themes in this book are so important. I truly feel this is an underrated book and not many people are talking about it. If you’re looking for a book that talks about grief, first love, friendships, strong family bonds, has short chapters, mixed with some sci-fi elements, then you should definitely pick this book up.
Read for Latinx Book Bingo 🧡
The quotes above were taken from an ALC and are subject to change upon publication.