Source: ARC from publisher for review
Neglected by her parents, nineteen-year-old Maya Nidal grows up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandparents. Her grandmother, Nidia, affectionately known as Nini, is a force of nature--a woman whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973. Popo, Maya's grandfather, is an African American astronomer and professor--a gentle man whose solid, comforting presence helps calm the turbulence of Maya's adolescence.
When Popo dies of cancer, Maya goes completely off the rails. With her girlfriends Maya turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime, eventually bottoming out in Las Vegas. Lost in a dangerous underworld, she is caught in the crosshairs of warring forces--a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a -remote island off the coast of Chile. Here Maya tries to make sense of the past, unravels mysterious truths about life and her family, and embarks on her greatest adventure: the journey into her own soul.This book is written as if you were reading her notebook. Almost as if you were listening to Maya telling her story as you sat with her drinking tea on the island she has been banished. She goes back and forth from what happened in the past and what was happening in the present as you might while in a deep conversation. As the reader you are gaining her trust and she slowly opens up to you and you find out what has brought her to the island. In other words, what choices she made to bring her to exile.
As she explores her new circumstances her life, which was spinning out of control, gains some silence and peace. Through this peace she finally starts to find out what is important to her and starts to heal from the death of her Popo, her grandfather who was her world. She finds that she is finally able to let go of the past slowly and how freeing it is by speaking of it out loud. She truly finds peace.
There is also a mystery and danger that you only really find out toward the end of the book. So, it is not just an exploration of Maya and her family and friends, but also a bit of adventure twisted in the end. Although not all ills are solved by the end of the book, but the danger does come to a conclusion. With that conclusion comes hope for a future in Maya's life.
I give this book 4 stars. Even though it has a young teen as the main protagonist, I would not say this is YA but adult. The themes in the book are quite dark and the violence is graphic. I recommend it to those that like a contemporary book with historical aspects about Chilé running in the background.
Isabel Allende had the students at San Jose State University animation dept. make videos. Here is the one of them. The rest are HERE.