cover image Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Tehlor Kay Mejia. Disney/Riordan, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-368-04917-7

Twelve-year-old Paola Santiago has always been more comfortable with science and logic than with her mother’s ghost stories, especially due to her history of vivid nightmares. When her friend Emma vanishes near the banks of Silver Spring, Ariz.’s Gila River, a place forbidden to Paola because of its history of mysterious disappearances, she and friend Dante investigate, only to be sucked into a realm where monsters out of her mother’s stories stalk them. The two find refuge with Los Niños de la Luz, an army of child warriors who guard the world’s liminal spaces. To track down Emma and save the world, the two must draw upon the strength of their friendship and confront a centuries-old tragedy. With this adventure, Mejia (We Set the Dark on Fire) draws upon her Latinx heritage to conjure creatures from folklore, such as chupacabras, La Llorona, and disembodied hands, arming Paola and her allies with fantastical weapons and layering in realistic plot points: socioeconomic and immigration concerns, the tension between science and superstition. Complicated emotional development is a particular strength—Paola wrestles with issues of anger and forgiveness, mother-daughter strife, and the new “boy-girl weirdness” between her and Dante en route to becoming a reluctant hero. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Aug.)