In this debut novel, a girl braves city streets and the South American jungle to avenge the murder of loved ones.
When Adelita “Adi” Alvarez was 7 years old, her family moved from the city to a remote jungle village to join a resistance movement against an oppressive regime. As she climbed trees and learned about medicinal herbs from a local healer, young Adi was happy. Four years later, an evil ringleader and his henchmen invade the peaceful village, killing innocents, including Adi’s mother and sister. Running away with her little brother, Benito, 11-year-old Adi uses her wits to survive. During the next four years, she faces myriad challenges. She and Benito stumble on a resistance camp run by children. Hoping to find her aunt, Adi leaves her brother at the camp and makes her way to the city. Rejected by her well-to-do aunt, hungry Adi ends up in another camp, where street kids struggle to stay alive. After meeting some girls who are sex slaves, Adi helps them escape to the jungle, where they are pursued by an angry trafficker. Reunited with Benito at the first camp, Adi learns that her grandmother was a leader of Las Hermanas, a famous resistance group. Is spunky Adi destined to follow in those heroic footsteps? Melin’s readable prose flows as swiftly as the jungle rivers she describes. But suspension of disbelief is required for the story, as Adi slices men’s throats, gouges out their eyes, lobs grenades, shoots an AK-47, tortures a villain by cutting off his fingers, and kills hardened military men in bloody, hand-to-hand combat. Other characters also perform distractingly unrealistic feats, like one of Adi’s comrades who has blood “gushing” from his abdomen yet manages to run and then swim in a fast-moving river. Keeping track of the many players in this well-intentioned novel can become dizzying. But lush natural descriptions—from ominous cliffs to dangerous electric eels in shallow pools—effectively set the dramatic mood.
An intriguing, action-packed tale, but the story’s important points—like the horrors of sex slavery—sometimes get lost among gory, implausible details.