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Fight alongside young Nezahualcoyotl as he comes of age and earns his crown.

In pre-Columbian Mexico in the year 1418, a forced peace has granted the Acolhua people temporary reprieve. Fifteen-year-old crown prince Nezahualcoyotl (then called by his birth name, Acolmiztli) must leave the palace for the calmecac and become a man. This rite of passage is interrupted, however, when battle returns to Tetzcoco and everything changes forever. Nezahualcoyotl kills a man for the first time. He also watches silently from a tree as his father is slain. Shedding his clothes and his birth name, Nezahualcoyotl goes into hiding until the time is right to return. In a maelstrom of oscillating joy and tragedy, the story follows Nezahualcoyotl (of contemporary 100-peso bill fame) until the age of 23 in this grand adventure. While most of the four-part story is told through prose, scattered verse showcases Nezahualcoyotl’s poetic gifts (including some direct translations of Nahuatl poems). Political machinations abound alongside an exceedingly high body count. Bowles deftly uses the first-person present tense to add immediacy to Nezahualcoyotl’s otherwise distant story. Gender and sexuality are understood differently in Nezahualcoyotl’s culture, but significantly, a main love interest is xochihuah (“a queer gender in Nahua culture that doesn’t quite align to modern perceptions”). Though sparse, Mijangos’ full-color illustrations add a regal beauty to the book’s design. An appended “Guide to Unfamiliar Concepts” offers extensive additional context for each chapter.

Riveting. (family trees, map, pronunciation notes, author’s note) (Historical epic. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781646141777

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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