Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Summary from NetGalley:
Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.
Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . .
Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.
ARC provided by Disney Book Group via NetGalley for an honest review.
Another good series from the Rick Riordan Presents Imprint. I really enjoyed this one although I was expecting it to be a bit creepier given the source mythology.
The story is told from Paola’s point of view and she was such a great character. She is typical 12 year old with all the complexities that entails. She is both brave and smart, but often doubts herself and her abilities. She is also confused by her feelings for Dante, who has been a long time friend, but that friendship seems to be on the cusp or becoming something more. I also really liked that she was always trying to find some sort of scientific explanation for all of the weird stuff going on around her. But she does also come to accept that some things just can’t be explained.
Dante is also a great character, and I would really like to hear part of the story from his point of view. He is a little bit of a jock, and maybe doesn’t catch on to what is going on as quickly as Pao does, but he is totally willing to do what needs to get done. He is a bit more willing to except all of the supernatural stuff going on more quickly than Pao, but he does have that hero thing going for him, which was awesome.
The story follows the same formula as the others in this imprint, but it continues to be one that works. I enjoyed learning about the La Llorona myth and some of the mythological creatures from this culture. The small town setting in Texas was well done, as was the culture of racism that is pervasive in this time. I would have liked a little bit more of a creepiness factor through out the whole story, but the final show down was well done and scary at times.
The writing was a little bit chaotic and not as smooth as it could be. I kept thinking that I missed something in the narrative and had to go back to see if I could find out what I missed, but I rarely did. This could be because this is an ARC and I am never sure how much more editing will be done before final publication, so hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and it is a nice addition to this imprint. I enjoyed the mythology and the characters and look forward to their next adventure.