Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Summer Reading 2020 Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Any book from Rick Riordan Presents probably needs no introduction or book-talking to make it appealing to readers. Here are my thoughts anyway. Paola's story deals with Mexican and Southwestern folklore such as chupacabras and the legend of La Llorona (the Crying Woman). But it also deals with racial prejudice, differences between economic classes, immigration services, and the difficulty of growing up.

Paola relies on science because she dislikes and distrusts her  mother's Tarot cards, incense, candles, and other "superstitious garbage that didn't work." Focusing on hard facts and researching scientific phenomena help Pao to feel in control and as if she is standing on her own, separate from her mother's beliefs. But when her friend Emma disappears and Pao's off dreams seem to give her clues to what happened, she might have to be more open-minded about spiritual things.

With some help from her friend Dante (despite their recently weird boy/girl awareness messing up their comfrotable friendship), Pao decides she will have to rescue Emma. After all, the police are notorious for not taking Latinx kids seriously, so they are on their own. Well, except there may be other forces trying to put an end to the creepy happenings along the Gila River. Can Pao and Dante trust these strangers with their friend's safety?

The story perfectly captures the way teens (and even preteens) try to distance themselves from their parents by embracing different values. With Pao it is science versus spiritualism, but it can take many forms. It also shows the awkwardness that can slip into boy-girl friendships as the friends realize they may also have romantic feelings. And there is the pain and resentment of friends that are growing up and beginning to find interests and new friends outside that tight bond that has always been there. 

Mejia has perfectly captured that rocky area of middle school when kids are stuck between the childhood years and the teen years, still trying to hang onto what is comfortable but also wanting to strike out on their own. Trying to deal with all of that would be hard enough, but then there are the recent kidnappings in the area, Emma's disappearance, La Llorona and the other supernatural creatures, money problems, ICE raids on their neighbors, and it seems too much even for someone of Pao's determination.

Those who are new to the imprint will want to try out the other authors in Rick Riordan Presents. Those who are already fans will welcome this new addition and eagerly await the next book in the series. 

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