Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Summer of the Mariposas (review)

3/5 stars

Summer of the Mariposas is the story of 5 sisters, abandoned by their father, left to run wild by their well-meaning mother who's trying to keep the family afloat.  The sisters find a body in the Rio Grande and decide to return it to Mexico.  The story is a very classical quest plotline.  The girls find the body, decide to go on an adventure, meet magical help, face magical adversaries, etc.

Their magical guide and helper is Llorana, known as The Weeping Woman.  This is a very interesting choice to use as a magical guide.  Llorana is known as the woman who drowned her children to be with the man she loved.  Legend has it she kidnaps disobedient children (which the Garza sisters most definitely are).  Rather than kidnapping the girls, Llorana serves as a guide offering them magical assistance and advice, maybe as penance for the death of her children.

This book isn't bad.  I always find it interesting to venture into different folklores that I don't know much about.  But the book is a little jumbled and drags in section.  Even though I knew it was a fantasy it took forever to introduce Llorana, then near the end it took forever to get to the obvious conclusion.

I enjoyed that this book chose to follow 5 sisters and how important their bond was to the story.  Outside of Odila the characters never really felt very developed though and I think the book suffered for that.  Velia and Delia, the twins, were nothing more than the girly bossy sisters, Juanita was easy to forget about and Pita was just the little crier.  I would've liked more characterization which is difficult with that many sisters.

The melding of Mexican and American culture, the insertion of just enough Spanish and the Mexican folklore were what made this book worthwhile.  I know some readers don't like foreign languages in their English books, however I'm the opposite.  I feel like just a dash of Spanish makes a book interesting.  I think it's important for books about the children of Mexican immigrants to acknowledge the mix of Spanish and English that they use.

This book felt a little younger than YA to me.  If the plot was tightened and the characters more developed it would really shine, especially for a middle grade audience.


Unknown said...

Hmmmm.... an interesting concept. finding a body and returning it to Mexico? Sounds a little grizzly for youngsters. How do they get it around?

Cassi Haggard said...

It's actually not grizzly at all. The body is drowned so no blood & they dress it in clothes & drive it across the border claiming he's "sleeping". It doesn't even really address the potential gore.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I have an actual physical copy of Summer Of The Mariposas, and you know I actually don't mind slow moving books too much so I'm kind of really looking forward to it now, plus the folklore sounds fascinating.