[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
This is not a happy book, and to be fair, I’m a little unsure why I requested it in the first place, since I’m usually not too keen on reading ‘realistic’ stories (the world is depressing enough as it is). Well, no: I guess I requested it because I like Marcus Sedgwick’s stories, also I met him briefly at a book festival and he was definitely a cool guy. So, yes, I guess there’s that.
And, anyway, I enjoyed the story. Though I should’ve guessed it wouldn’t be a bed of roses for the characters (pay attention to the very first character we meet, too). It is both realistic and haunting—haunted as it is by the presence of Santa Muerte, who may or may not be present, and who can tell, and does it really matter? For the characters believe in her and in her powers, and quickly learn that you must be crazy to try and trick the White Girl.
The story is told in third person point of view, present tense, which I typically enjoy less than past tense for a simple reason: it’s difficult to use, and too many people fail at it. Here, it works, and lends itself to that haunting atmosphere I mentioned previously, making the story somewhat surreal... which, in turn, strengthens its gritty aspects even more.
This isn’t a happy world, and there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel. Yet this is also a world where one can learn to retain their human dignity, and not give in to the darkness. A world where there are still good people in spite of all the bad ones. It is both hope and sadness—and death, who unites everybody in the end.