Happy Monday, guys!
So I've been reviewing books around/after the release date recently, simply because I wanted to share books that are readily available.
However, I'm going to break that rule this time, by reviewing the imaginative and spectacular The Lightning Queen, which is coming out in late October. It's by Laura Resau, and I firmly believe that The Lightning Queen will be my favorite MG book of the year, hands down.
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: October 27th 2015 by Scholastic Press
Format read: ARC via publisher
Teo and Esma's story is a breathtaking one; surpassing decades, generations of family and change, all destined to cement a friendship that is destined to last for the ages.
But there are rare occasions where a book will geninuely capture my heart and soul, the way that The Lightning Queen did. I picked up an ARC purely out of curiosity at ALA - the cover and the synopsis sounded intriguing - and spent a day completely immersed in Teo and Esma's magical story.
Author Laura Resau introduces us to Mateo, who is visiting his grandfather Teo in modern-day Oxaca, Mexico. Grandfather Teo begins telling Mateo the story of Esma, a young gypsy girl whom Teo befriended when he was younger, and how Esma's grandmother foretold that their friendship would last the ages.
As the book jumps back in time to the 1950s, we see how Teo and Esma's friendship evolve, beginning with their unexpected meeting and fortune, and eventually expanding as the Romany return to the Hill of Dust year-after-year. Amidst the discrimination and challenges of the period, the two friends get to know each other, and learn that they have the power to both save each other and the lives of those around them.
While there are many books about unlikely friendships, there's a certain raw beauty about Teo and Esma's relationship which helps The Lightning Queen stand out. Resau is candid as she builds the friendship between the two unlikely peers, showing both the inherent discrimnation toward the Mixteco and Romany during that period, and how Teo and Esma's defiance of those expectations defines their friendship, and subsequently influences their respective communities.
As their friendship evolves, Teo and Esma prove time and again, that it's friendship that trumps all, regardless of prejudice and social convention. This not only paves the way for unusual but much-needed relationships - e.g. Teo forms a touching, long-lasting relationship with a teacher with a sad story of her own - but also binds the histories of their people together. Reseau shows how two disparate cultures are able to blend their beliefs, and how that ultimately continues to define both communities in the generations to come.
It's also that inherent defiance, which helps push Teo and Esma in other aspects of their lives. Reseau nicely emphasizes their ability of the two friends to compliment each other on respective strengths and weaknesses, including areas they thought they could never conquer - e.g. Teo's desire to go to school, and Esma's wish to become a singer. There's an tacit acknowledgement by Resau on the importance of finding friends who help become the best version of whom a person is meant to be, even if it does eventually push them away from each other.
Ultimately, it's with that knowledge in mind that that Teo and Esma's friendship eventually culminates to a point where neither are sure that they can overcome challenges of the past. But Resau thoughtfully asks the reader to consider whether it's ever too late to resume an important friendship, and what it ultimately takes to bring the original spirit of the friendship back to life. It's a thoughtful, honest look at the importance of letting bygones be bygones, a beautiful and lasting lesson that readers will surely take to heart.
Of special note: There are several instances of depression and loss throughout the book, which are experienced acutely by both Teo and Esma.
Resau is nuisanced in her approach, acknowledging that yes: loss, and the type of loss felt by the pair, is challenging and difficult to overcome. However, this makes it all the more important for both of them to live their life to the fullest, even when it seems completely impossible. Teo and Esma both take this lesson to heart, challenging each other to live up to that expectation, even as one of them may struggle.
It's a thoughtful, important lesson not only on seizing opportunities as life presents them, but also a reminder of the value of a strong, reinforcing friendship.
Teo and Esma's story is a breathtaking one; full of friendship. loyalty and adventure, with an ethreal spirit that will send hearts singing and imaginations soaring. Resau not only shares a rich, diverse piece of Mixteco and Romani history with readers, but also helps readers realize that friendships are very rarely bound by the prejudice or time. There are stll bonds that are eternal, which will stay with us all of our lives.
I can't recommend this book enough. It's diverse, and it's a genuine study on history and friendship that has earned a permanent place on my shelf. I also recommend The Lightning Queen for older readers like myself, who have enjoyed books like One Hundred Years of Solitude or In the Time of the Butterflies. Resau has the same story-telling magic of Garcia Marques and Julia Alvarez, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to discover this book.
About the author:
Laura Resau is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Star in the Forest, The Queen of the Water, Red Glass, and What the Moon Saw. She is also the author of the acclaimed Notebook series, which includes: The Indigo Notebook, The Ruby Notebook, and The Jade Notebook. Laura's books have garnered many state and library awards, as well as multiple starred reviews. The Impossible Caravan is drawn from Laura's experience of living in rural Mexico. She lives in Denver, Colorado.