Lobizona by Romina Garber is the story of Argentinian Manuela ‘Manu’ Azul who currently lives undocumented in Miami, Florida with her mother. However, there is something special about Manu, her eyes are unlike anyone else she has met — they are gold and star shaped. This strangeness has forced her to live cooped up in a small apartment with her mom and surrogate grandmother. That is until one day her grandmother is attacked and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home and a single clue of her past, Manu decides to investigate the the mysterious ‘Z’ emblem in the file her mom kept. Soon Manu finds herself in a magic school and world filled with people with star shaped eyes, just like her. There she discovers that her mother has been keeping a deadly secret.
Lobizona is set in a world inspired by Argentine folklore, where the event consecutive daughter is born a bruja, a witch, and the seven consecutive son is a lobizon, a werewolf. Rich with Argentine culture and Spanish, Garber combines magical realism to tackle heavy topics such as being undocumented, feeling alone and trying to find a family while being in the background of a magical school. Full of vivid imagery of the magical worlds, fascinating magic system, realistic characters and unexpected twists Lobizona is one of the best young adult fantasy novels of 2020. Garber pulls no punches when discussing the life full of fear of ICE or being undocumented, and discusses the indoctrinated sexism in humanity, especially in Latinx culture, it exposes you to the reality and ugliness so many people still deal with today.
This diverse novel has a diverse cast of Latinx individuals that doesn’t always involve suffering, queer representation, found families and honestly everything I love about YA stories. The romance between Manu and the main love interest was a bit predictable and I wish it wasn’t so ‘insta-love’ but thankfully Garber doesn’t let the romance over-take the fantasy plot.
As a Spanish speaking Venezuelan-American I was equally shocked and delighted how much Spanish there was in the text. It wasn’t just a random word here and there, but complete sentences and conversations in Spanish! The easy fluidity between English and Spanish made my Miami blood sing, because they are exactly like my own conversations with my family and friends.
My only complaint is there were moments that the story dragged on, especially at the beginning at the book, but after 25% into the book it picks up the space and hooks you in so quickly that you find yourself unable to stop reading.
I don’t want to give too much away because it is an important story that was beautifully written. If you like magic, strong female characters, crushing the patriarchy and found families this book is for you.
“Why settle for being a son of the system, when you can mother a movement.”
ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
“With vivid characters that take on a life of their own, beautiful details that peel back the curtain on Romina’s Argentinian heritage, and cutting prose that shines a light on the difficulties of being the ‘other’ in America today, Romina Garber crafts a timely tale of identity and adventure that every teenager should read.”–Tomi Adeyemi New York Times bestselling author of Children of Blood and Bone
“Romina Garber has created an enthralling young adult fantasy led by an unforgettable Latinx character Manu. In Manu we find a young girl who not only must contend with the injustice of being undocumented she also discovers a hidden world that may explain her very existence. I fell in love with this world where wolves, witches and magic thrives, all in a rich Latinx setting!” –Lilliam Rivera, author of Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez
Buy Link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/lobizona/
Social Links: Twitter: @RominaRussell // Instagram: @RominaGarber