Thursday, October 25, 2012

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee and Low - Tu Books) read like a dozen things you've read recently and not at all like them. The story, to me, straddles that invisible, shifty line between MG and YA, since while oldest sister Odilia is well into YA, her four little sisters are younger, and there isn't anything that, to my mind, would keep it from being appropriate for a broader age group.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Summer of the Mariposas is billed as the Odyssey set in Mexico, and it's that with a side of La Llorona, the legendary woman who has drowned her children and now weeps in her ghostly way. But it's also, a lot, about negotiating borders--cultural and political borders, the border between the magical and the real, the border between love and loathing, the border between childhood and adulthood.

Odilia's father has left them. Her mother struggles to hang on to her job at a restaurant while tending to the needs of her five girls. When the girls find a body in the river, they set off on an epic road trip to Mexico to bring the dead man home--and to figure out what home means to them.

The magical elements come in and out of the story; one moment, the girls are stopping for a soda, the next, they're navigating the book's equivalent of the lotus eaters. Some of the fantasy is familiar to readers of traditional genre offerings, some is very real-world, and some in the middle, more along the lines of magical realism (worthy of its own genre, of course, and also a lovely and unexpected thing that can cross into fantasy, sometimes).

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I had a review copy from NetGalley before the Cybils opened, and I bought a copy separately. The other disclaimer: the author will be a guest of honor for next year's Sirens; I am on the board of the parent organization and I've been a volunteer since the event's inception. 

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