cover image Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice

Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice

Anna Lapera. Levine Querido, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64614-371-9

Twelve-year-old Manula Semilla is worried; not only has her first period still not arrived, but she’s been constantly clashing with her mother. Their fights become more frequent when Mami plans a trip for Mani and her parents to visit family in Guatemala, even though Mani would prefer to spend time with her friend group, Las Nerdas. When an anatomy lesson at school goes awry, prompting unwanted attention from male classmates, Mani and Las Nerdas realize that certain boys’ harassment of their female classmates extends beyond their classroom. But what can Las Nerdas do about it? After Mani finds letters in the attic from her missing aunt addressed to her mother, she unravels the history of gender inequality in Guatemala and learns that her aunt was a journalist attempting to report on rampant femicide. Inspired by her aunt’s letters, Mani slowly drums up the courage to stand up against the school’s administration and their unwillingness to confront bullying. Using perceptive prose, debut author Lapera approaches Guatemala’s fraught history with care and respect, and lovingly spotlights the tension felt in the relationship between a protective mother and the daughter who seeks independence from her. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ellen Goff, HG Literary. (Mar.)