The Moon Within

240p. Scholastic. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338283372.
RedReviewStarGr 4–8—Salazar's debut coming-of-age story told in verse explores the themes of first love, first periods, and gender identity. Eleven-year-old Celi Rivera is mortified by the looming fact that her first period is coming. Her mother, however, is eager to throw her a "moon ceremony" upon its arrival to reclaim and honor their ancestral Mexica traditions and to empower her as she enters young womanhood. Meanwhile, Celi's best friend Magda is also going through a change, asking Celi to use he/his pronouns and call him Marco as he embraces his transition into a xochihuah, "people who danced between/or to other energies/than what they were assigned at birth." But when Celi's new crush Iván repeatedly makes fun of Marco for his appearance, Celi makes a few rash decisions. Celi's and Marco's parents come through with wisdom, shedding light and acceptance on each tween's journey. Celi's mom speaks frankly about sex and health, using poetic imagery to describe "women's most magical parts" and sexual pleasure. This novel contains rich descriptions of Mexica rituals and provides a unique perspective on gender fluidity and the bonds of unbreakable friendship.
VERDICT An excellent addition for upper middle grade and middle school readers, especially for maturing tweens in the midst of puberty.

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