We’re taking a break from the boys in the Black Dagger Brotherhood to bring you probably the most heart-wrenching book I’ve read in a while. I was really excited for this book’s release last month because I had already read a bit of Tehlor Key Mejia’s writing back in October. She had a short story in “Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women in Witchcraft” and her writing… damn.
So of course when I found out she had a debut novel with a prominent female/female relationship about taking down the patriarchy… I had to get it! This is gonna be a long review so buckle up.
This book contains implications of sexual assault as well as violence, alcohol, and political themes.
I bought this book for the author and stayed for the patriarchal takedown! Seriously though, Mejia’s writing is out of this world. It’s the most immersive I’ve come across in a while and it just stays with you.
There’s a moment in the book where Dani is reminiscing about being back in the village she grew up in and watching the adults make tortillas. She describes them in detail pulling you into the village even if (like me) you’ve never even traveled far enough to experience that culture. (I’m an Irish, Italian girl from Boston. I’m White as snow and we didn’t travel much as kids.) But there I was with my girlfriend one-night eating burritos and the tortillas pulled me right back to that moment in the book. I’ve never been pulled back to a scene in a book like that before almost to the point where I could remember Mejia’s wording it stuck that much with me.
On top of killer writing, Mejia brings the most diverse cast of characters I’ve ever read in a modern YA novel. She has an LGBT relationship (that’s f/f!), immigrants, Latinx culture, women oppression, and even some witchy themes that all come from her personal experience. That’s why I think I love her writing so much. It’s unapologetic and uncensored.
Full disclosure on my own minority status, I can’t relate to being Latinx or an immigrant, but I’m gay, a woman, and a witch. Dani’s story is so steeped in the reality of real-life oppression that I saw myself in her. I saw myself in her cautious love of Carmen because that was me at 16 figuring out myself. I saw her love and understanding of the Tarot as my own when I got my
We Set the Dark on Fire feels like The Handmaid’s Tale for the new generation. It’s easily accessible to high school-aged kids and can teach a lot of empathy through its themes. Mejia writes from her heart without fear of repercussion and it shows. It’s clear to me that this book is a love letter to those without a voice. It’s a war cry, a call to arms for rebels and lovers and fighters. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and exactly the kind of story we need right now.
Have you read We Set the Dark on Fire? What did you think?
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