Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything – by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland


  Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything – by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, Simon Pulse (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 9781534448636, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction/ SF

What did you like about the book?  Sia lives in a small border town with her dad; mom disappeared 3 years ago after being deported and is now presumed dead. Sia’s abuela helped the young woman through this tough time, but she’s also gone now, although she still mysteriously communicates with her granddaughter. Best friend Rose (Haitian-American) and Noah, a new white boy in town and Sia’s romantic interest, round out the cast. Getting to know the characters was great and so was learning about life in the Southwest, Sia’s interest in Mexican culture and traditions, and her increasing attraction to Noah. She’s had an incident of sexual trauma in her past and the relationship plays out against that, with an emphasis on mutual consent and patience. Sia and Rose’s friendship is central to the first half of the book and that also is realistic and heartfelt, with misunderstandings that threaten its stability. The focus on ethnic bias, deportation, loss and truth kept me absorbed in the characters.

Anything you didn’t like about it? In the second half of the book we learn that Sia’s mom Lena has escaped from a government facility after being injected with alien blood, which gives her super powers. At first, I was intrigued by the idea of a literary connection between deportation and abduction, and hoped for some observations comparing undocumented aliens with visitors from another planet. But as the story unfolded, it morphed into action/adventure mode and abandoned any allegorical possibilities. Although the characters frequently reference The X Files, the book turned into  one long Bourne-style chase scene. The plot became cluttered with domestic dramas between the two aliens chasing Lena, Sia becoming an object of the hunt after being exposed to her mother’s blood, and hints of a possible sequel. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  The first half was strong, so high school students interested in stories with strong LatinX characters might find it of interest. The book’s opening pages list 5 trigger warnings (sexual assault, PTSD, physical abuse, parental death and racist violence), which rules it out for younger readers. 

Who should buy this book? High schools or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction; not sure which genre!

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 2, 2020

 

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