Monday, June 24, 2019

YA Review: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Title: The Grief Keeper
Author: Alexandra Villasante
Year Published: 2019


Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 306
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)El Salvador and USA (Washington, DC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Seventeen year old Marisol has always dreamed of being American--of living a life like the characters on Cedar Hollow, her favorite American television show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under the threat of death and stealing across the US border as "an illegal"--but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister Gabi's life is placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is all her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl, her mother wouldn't be hiding and she and Gabi wouldn't now be detained by the Unites States government.

Consumed by her guilt, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She agrees to become a grief keeper, someone who takes the grief of another into her own body, relieving them of their pain as she lives through it. It's a risky experimental study, but if it means keeping Gabi safe, Marisol will do anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love.

Review: Given all that is going on in this country regarding immigration and the detention of small children, I thought this would be an appropriate book to read. However, I didn't read the entire summary of the book before purchasing it and as I started, I was a bit worried it would be magical realism, which I am not great with.

But, it's not magical realism and it's not sci-fi. I guess slightly dystopian in concept, but it didn't feel that way when I was reading it. It just feels like realistic fiction even though the concept of a grief keeper is anything but realistic. Ok, enough of that. 

I quite liked this book and Marisol. She is such a care taker. In El Salvador she tried to take care of her little sister and her older brother when gangs took over their lives, she protected her sister on their journey north to the US and while they are in detention. So being a grief keeper is a natural move for her. I also thought the relationship between Marisol and Rey, the girl who is grieving, progresses nicely, building from wariness to mutual moral support.

I liked the social and political commentary about immigration, politics, and wealth vs poverty, but it isn't preachy or obnoxious. It plays an important role in the story.

Challenges for which this counts: 
 

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