I would just like to say that when I saw this book was starring a Salvadoran MC I almost squealed! I have never, ever seen my people represented in books and this was my first time reading one so I am super excited to share my thoughts with you today!
Pub Date: June 11, 2019
Price: $23.99 CAD
This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under 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 also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.
But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.
The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.
*Thank you to Penguin Teen CA for providing me with an ARC!*
I really enjoyed reading from Marisol’s perspective. I thought she was so incredibly raw and brave. Her courage to travel with her younger sister from her home country all the way to the US was amazing and to keep that courage no matter how many times she felt like things were going wrong was heart-warming and wrenching at the same time. Fleeing from everything she has ever known for being herself, for loving, she does everything and gives everything she can to keep her sister safe. The love she had for Gabi was so pure, my heart. Throughout the book, Marisol does a lot of self-discovery, of learning to accept herself and opening herself to new love, it’s amazing.
Gabi was a pretty remarkable character too. We don’t follow her perspective at any point, but just the knowledge of what she lived through is terrifying to think about. Don’t get me wrong, she had lots of smiles to share and a bubbly personality which was adorable, but you can’t read this book, or at least I couldn’t read this book without thinking about how much Gabi went through too. The things that she has seen and the things she knows and how she deals with it. She’s a spectacular character.
Rey was another incredible character. One that you kind of have to let grow on you. She has been through a terrible trauma and is living with this grief she refuses to let go of. She is stubborn and could be quite mean but she also had this noble heart to her that I loved reading about.
The Actual Grief Keeping
It was so scary to think about. That this could be a reality. That the way the world is working could actually lead to immigrants choosing to use their bodies as containers of grief to have a chance to live safely in the States. The book explores a lot of this. Of how far someone will go to find safety and freedom. Marisol’s experience as a grief keeper is not easy and it was really hard to read about sometimes. There was a terrible hope in it and as much as it was a chance to *save* lives, it also heavily discounted the lives of others.
The Hard Stuff
Immigration is really the big topic of the book and it’s accompanied by the persecution of LGBTQ+ folx in Central American countries. Which also comes with the discussion on gang violence and extortion. There are a lot of heavy subjects that this book deals with and Marisol goes through so much. While we don’t actual go on a linear storyline from El Salvador to the US, there are plenty flashbacks of her times in ES and the struggles she went through!
Grief was such an important theme in this novel. It was tied to every aspect of each character’s life, not just Marisol. The grief in family, of when you lose family and of when you stop loving your family. There is the fear of being branded illegal in every aspect of your life, in getting caught and stomped and trampled over. There was sadness, but there was also hope. I don’t want you guys to think that this book is just sad, there is so much hope to be had in it too. Marisol is such an incredible character to journey with as she deals with all of this.
On a lighter note…It referenced Narnia twice.
Can I get a high five? *High fives self*
It wasn’t a slow burn…but these girls didn’t click right away. Marisol and Rey both had a lot to deal with before they could factor in a relationship. Their backgrounds were different and their life experiences were quite opposites too. But I really enjoyed watching them grow together, of leaning with each other. Bonding and creating new memories together. Talking things out and accepting the other for everything they were flaws and all.
It was beautifully written. The Spanish that was incorporated in it was seamless and I LOVED the fact that it included actual Salvadoran slang. A+. But seriously there were a lot of quotable moments in the book.
There is a really shocking revelation that made my jaw drop. I mean I was sort of expecting it, but not exactly! A tease I know. But it was…wow.
I’m not 100% sure why I took off the 0.25 in the end. I think most of it is due to the fact that I waited two weeks to write this review so I really don’t remember. UGH. But I think I would have liked to read a little bit more about Gabi and how exactly she copes with everything that happens, but maybe that’s for another book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It’s not the easiest to read in terms of content, but I really flew through the book so it’s definitely a page-turner. I know this isn’t exactly the El Salvador book I wanted because the country itself doesn’t have a good rep in this particular case, but it needs to be talked about anyways. The toxic culture of a country is one thing, but the people that it hurts, the people like Marisol are the ones who really need the highlight. It is a poignant tale, and an important one too.
Rating: 4.75 / 5 stars
Recommend: Yes! I think it is a great Pride Month read for those who are looking!
Let me know what you think! What did you think of this book? Are you looking to read it?