Review: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

found out Mom died. And only one until I get my revenge.

What do you get when you combine men in black, ghosts, aliens, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), teen angst, conspiracy, magical realism and sci-fi?  A young adult novel that defies classification and a very strong debut by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, author of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything.  I’m telling you now, this novel is destined for movie magic.  Read it before the movie gets made.  You’ll be glad you did.

Sia’s mother was deported and presumed dead after an apparently unsuccessful return across the Sonoran desert.  The hitch? Sia’s dead grandmother keeps appearing and telling Sia that her mother is alive.  Years later, when Sia’s mother crashlands in a spaceship right in front of Sia’s eyes, all hell breaks loose!

This book, to borrow from a tired metaphor, is like an onion: you have to peel away the layers.  Like an onion, sometimes it will make you cry–sometimes with rage, oftentimes with laughter.  There are so many things going on, that the novel comes with an explicit warning:

Please be aware that Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning
of Everything contains the following content:
Sexual Assault
Physical Abuse
Parental Death
Racist Violence

That warning is earned.  Although marketed to the 12 and Up audience, I would steer the book away from Middle Grade readers and put it squarely in the hands of a Young Adult audience and above.  The themes are strong, the writing is strong, and although very funny at times, things can get pretty intense:

He’d just parked the car on the side of a gas station—we were about
to pick up a bag of caramel chocolate popcorn to hide in my purse for
the movies. And he looked at me with his steel gray eyes with their
thick, pale lashes and told me how pretty I looked. We kissed. And then,
out of nowhere, he put my hand on his dick.

It made me gasp, but he mistook it for a good reaction. “Big, right?”
he said, grinning. Then he grabbed my neck and pulled my face into
his lap.

I yelled and opened the car door, but he grabbed my arm so hard,
pain shot into my neck. I screamed and screamed into the open sliver
of car, and some cowboy filling up his tractor came running over. Justin
let me go.

Intense, however, because the things Vasquez Gilliland writes about, whether it be through the use of sci-fi or magical realism, happen in everyday life–and, they happen to kids, making the novel immediately accessible and an important reminder to the victims that they are not alone.  

I strongly recommend reading Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything.  What’s more, I recommend reading it with your kids.  There is a lot to unpack in the novel and it is the perfect jumping off point for discussions on topics including immigration, dating, conspiracy theories, the afterlife and folklore–just to name a few.  If you want a more interactive experience, the audiobook is already available–something you can all listen to together!

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Simon & Schuster

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything (Support an Independent Bookstore)
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything (Hardcover at Amazon)*
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything (Audiobook at Amazon)*

More books for this Age Group can be found here.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a Review Copy of this book. The views expressed herein are my own.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

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