A Salvadoran teen joins a grief transference experiment in exchange for asylum for herself and her family.
Fearing their asylum request will be denied and they’ll be deported back to a life threatened by gang violence, 17-year-old Marisol Morales escapes with her 12-year-old sister, Gabi, from an immigration detention center. The sisters attempt to trek to New York in search of Mrs. Rosen, an American woman their mother used to work for back in El Salvador. When discovered by Indranie Patel, an Indian immigrant working for the government, Marisol agrees to join a trial that will guarantee her and her family approval for their asylum applications. The catch? She must become a “grief keeper” for people with PTSD. Her first task is to convince Rey, the white girl for whom she’s supposed to be a grief keeper (and who offers her a second chance at love), to wear the grief-transmitting cuff. Flashbacks provide snippets of the sisters’ lives in El Salvador and the anti–LGBTQ environment they escaped and slowly chip away at the true reason for their flight. In her debut, Villasante captures the pressures of internalized racism in immigrants, for example, as Marisol worries people believe her to be stupid because she doesn’t have perfect command of English. However, shifting the focus from loss and the complexities of immigration to the romantic relationship risks implying that relationships can remove grief.
Will grip readers and provoke empathy. (Science fiction. 14-18)