Gilliland has woven together many different genres in this fascinating debut novelromance, sci-fi, Mexican folkloreall against the backdrop of horrifically true events that have taken place at the border in the past few years. Her previous work as a poet and visual artist serves her well, especially when she's describing endless stretches of desert and sky. Her attention to light, shadow, taste, smell and sound are remarkable, making a cricket's song seem magical. Her language exhibits a stunning fluidity, depicting time and space and even mortality as a sort of continuum…In a world where we are so often dividing ourselves into us and them, this book feels like a kind of magic, too, celebrating all beliefs, ethnicities and unknowns.
The New York Times Book Review - Abby Sher
Every new moon, Artemisia “Sia” Martinez drives into the desert to light candles for her mother, who went missing after being deported three years ago by a racist sheriff. The 17-year-old’s park ranger father, Haitian American best friend, and late abuela’s spirit are lifelines in her small, predominantly white Arizona town. After a new boy arrives at her school, a series of strange events slowly unfolds alongside a sweet, sex-positive romance. Blue lights appear in the night sky, a silver-haired woman shows up in the town diner, and Sia’s very-much-alive mother crash-lands before her in a spaceship. Sia must learn how to protect herself and her loved ones within a hostile system, from the likes of secret government agents and a bigoted gas station attendant. Gilliland, making her YA debut, uses lyrical prose to weave between contemporary themes of grief, sexual assault, and racial trauma; magical realism elements grounded in Mexican American culture; and a sci-fi adventure based on real issues surrounding government control over marginalized, undocumented bodies. Despite its leisurely pace, this is a genre-defyingread that is certain to keep readers engaged. Ages 12–up. Agent: Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)
In a world where we are so often dividing ourselves into us and them, this book feels like a kind of magic, celebrating all beliefs, ethnicities, and unknowns.”
— The New York Times Book Review “Gilliland weaves sci-fi and magic into a stunning contemporary story that sticks with you long after the first time you read it.” — BuzzFeed “Magic dances on each page, along with love, heartbreak, and so much more. It’s a book unlike any other, one that even if you know how it ends, you’ll still be surprised.” — Culturess “Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Uses lyrical prose to weave between contemporary themes of grief, sexual assault, and racial trauma; magical realism elements grounded in Mexican American culture; and a sci-fi adventure based on real issues surrounding government control over marginalized, undocumented bodies...This is a genre-defying read that is certain to keep readers engaged.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review “Impressively fluid. . . Sia is a complex and memorable protagonist who draws on all of the best parts of herself and her loved ones to grow, adapt, and overcome her losses.” — BCCB, starred review “Amid the surprising plot twists is a thoughtful exploration of humanity, emphasizing that, though no one is perfect, no one is beyond redemption, either.” — Booklist “Gilliland uses lush descriptions of setting and desert imagery paired with lively dialogue to craft a story that blends science fiction with Mexican folklore, all within a contemporary young adult novel that explores grief, friendship, immigration, consent, and the powerful bond between mother and daughter.” — SLJ “The book teems with vivid imagery and explicit social commentary. . . . Vasquez Gilliland skillfully sows the seeds of science fiction and magical realism early in the story, and like Sia’s maíz, they have been waiting for just the right time to bloom.” — BookPage "Sia’s story is a startlingly beautiful blend of so many things: mythology, spirituality, and the stark realities of racism and deportation in the U.S.; coming of age and first love; and all the best pop-culture sci-fi. And aliens! And a kick-ass girl full of heart! You’ll believe in these characters, and in the wonders around them. Go, Sia!" —Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling author of the Graceling Realm series and Jane, Unlimited
Gr 9 Up—Sia and her father, a park ranger, live alone in the Arizona desert mourning the disappearance of Sia's mother after she was deported to Mexico, escaped, and attempted to walk across the Sonoran Desert to return home. Years have passed and while most people believe Sia's mother has died, she still makes a monthly trek out to the desert during the new moon to perform a candlelit ritual she hopes will guide her mother home. Sia encounters new student Noah during one of her desert rituals and though she is initially bothered by his intrusion in her sacred space, she soon discovers an undeniable attraction to him, especially when the duo is paired up to work on a school assignment. This new relationship wreaks havoc on Sia's friendship with Rose, who senses that Noah is harboring a secret. When Sia and Noah witness an unidentified flying object crash in the desert, they are shocked to see Sia's mother emerge from the wreckage. Though her homecoming is joyous, it is also cause for concern as Sia's mother is no longer entirely human. Debut author Gilliland uses lush descriptions of setting and desert imagery paired with lively dialogue to craft a story that blends science fiction with Mexican folklore, all within a contemporary young adult novel that explores grief, friendship, immigration, consent, and the powerful bond between mother and daughter. VERDICT The first book in what promises to be a hot new series, this is a highly recommended purchase for most collections.— Samantha Lumetta, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Sia’s mother was deported three years ago by the town sheriff; she disappeared after trying to make her way back across the Sonoran Desert to her family.
Grieving Sia is plagued daily by the sheriff’s hateful son, but the Mexican American teen is bolstered by her Haitian American, questioning best friend, Rose; her loving park ranger father, who has a Ph.D. in biology; and the spirit of her late grandmother, who continues to communicate with and guide her. She falls for a mysterious, poetry-loving white boy, and, together, they spot a spacecraft bearing Sia’s mother. What follows is an electrifying, high-stakes adventure filled with shady government agencies and conspiracy theories come to life. Vasquez Gilliland adeptly balances first love, Mexican American cosmology and Catholicism,
X-Files–level intrigue, and undocumented immigration. She doesn’t shy away from frank explorations of trauma; interrogation of whiteness; and sex-positive, swoon-inducing makeout sessions that center a young woman’s perspective. The poetic prose elevates the story into a magical triumph. Sia is a vulnerable, sympathetic protagonist who, despite a past traumatic sexual experience, the deportation of her mother, and the constant barrage of egregious micro- and macroaggressions, finds hope in her relationships, culture, and connection to her ancestors. Spirituality is woven into everything Sia does and will resonate with many readers. The whip-smart humor lends the novel a breeziness that keeps the narrative lighthearted in between the truly hair-raising moments.
Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world.
(Science fiction/contemporary. 14-adult)