Thirty Talks Weird Love

Cinco Puntos. Jun. 2021. 208p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781947627482; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781947627499.
Gr 7 Up–This novel uses magical realism and multiple poetic forms in telling 13-year-old Anamaria Aragón Sosa’s story. Set in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico in 1999, the work focuses on a time of fear as girls and women disappear daily, particularly those who are poor with dark skin. The sudden appearance of a woman claiming to be Anamaria’s own 30-year-old self lends mystery to the plot. Thirty speaks cryptically to Anamaria, offering advice, encouragement, and a composition notebook for writing poetry. Mostly, she urges her to “just love you,” a phrase the girl considers as her parents work long hours at their restaurant to afford her private school. Yet Anamaria’s self-loathing increases as she experiences constant humiliation from a girl in her class, and the cold ambivalence of teachers and administrators. Her parents think she was born with an old soul, a seriousness that grows into severe anxiety with vivid nightmares, sleeplessness, academic obsession, and uncontrollable scratching. Thirty repeatedly urges Anamaria to speak to her parents and to tell them she is depressed. This is a moving story of a girl on the cusp of womanhood who learns to empathize with others’ sadness and finally to care for herself.
VERDICT A must for every library given its timely themes, international setting, and authentic protagonist voice.

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