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. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Please don't fret about the sparkly, pale girl on the cover. I know you've seen a lot of them lately. I don't think this looks much like the book's heroine as described.

And if I tell you this is a post-apocalyptic tale, please don't fret about that either. This apocalypse happened a long, long time ago.

In that long, long time ago in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (HarperCollins - Balzer+Bray), genetic engineering got out of hand. People were modified. And somehow, things mutated and changed, as they do, and people were Reduced. A few, the Luddites, rejected the technology and hid themselves away, and later took it upon themselves to protect the Reduced, the people who could then only speak a few words, pantomime a few rudimentary signs, hardly take care of themselves. In the past few generations, there is something new: the children of the Reduced are as aware of the world and intelligent as the Luddites. And now, they want a new life.

Elliot is the youngest daughter living on the North estate, and her childhood friends were a Reduced girl, Ro, and Kai, who is definitely not Reduced, but one of the Children of the Reduced, who call themselves Post-Reductionist. Each orbits a different class sphere, but the three are fast friends until the day when Kai leaves to join an enclave of free people, and Elliot...doesn't. She couldn't; no one else in her family cares enough about the people of the estate, or the running of the land, to ensure that there is enough for everyone. And Elliot, the one who stayed behind and broke her own heart, must struggle with what she knows as a Luddite--science and innovation tore the world apart--and what she knows as a person, that her own inventions could help everyone.

I had forgotten that this is a retelling of Persuasion, but I recognized the bones of so many favorite romances--girl's family is messing up the finances, girl is in odd position of trying to save the farm despite everything, girl has to negotiate class boundaries. But even if you haven't read Persuasion, and I'm not entirely certain I have (Austen mostly blurs together in my head), there's really fantastic worldbuilding, including some truly frightening implications about a world where very few have autonomy over themselves due to intellect. The last bit makes for rough reading at times, but despite some uncomfortable moments, I couldn't put the book down.

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I had my own copy to read and review.
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