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March 26, 2019

We Set the Dark on Fire | Book Review

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.

The Writing

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.

Diversity

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 first deck. I saw her and Carmen being put into labels of the two types of ideal women and the woman inside of me saw an 18-year-old me in a hospital bed being told they would do nothing about my ovarian pain because I hadn’t had kids yet. My role was to be a woman, a mother, and choices were taken away.

Final Thoughts

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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14 Comments on “We Set the Dark on Fire | Book Review

Susan Crosby
March 26, 2019 at 7:18 pm

I am always thrilled to read that someone else was as blown away by We Set the Dark on Fire as I was. It is such an important book in such a brilliantly written story! Your review is a great breakdown of the story and what most toucher you.

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Brigid Downey
March 26, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Thank you so much! Mejia is honestly an inspiration to us queer girl writers ?

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Susan Crosby
March 26, 2019 at 7:24 pm

I am not in your position but she inspired me and I wont ever pretend to understand what walking in your shoes is like, I get inspiration. And that connection is so vital to find and I am thrilled you have it.

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Brigid Downey
March 26, 2019 at 7:33 pm

Diverse books are so important and I’m so thrilled that Mejia writes so openly. A hard part of writing this review was trying not to speak as if I understood immigrants or Latinx peoples but I understand being gay and being a woman and Mejia’s writing hits so close to my inner scared 16-year-old. My WIP is also about queer women and WSTDOF has given me hope that one day it can get published because even the LGBT market can be very male-centric. It honestly feels like a hug when us girls get represented

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Susan Crosby
March 26, 2019 at 7:40 pm

You are writing your own novel? Go get it! I started one and scrapped it… trying to figure out how to reboot. Don’t let anyone be a dream killer. You could be someone else’s inspiration someday. You don’t know.

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Brigid Downey
March 26, 2019 at 7:42 pm

Yup! I’m halfway through a draft of lesbian vampire fun lol

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Susan Crosby
March 26, 2019 at 7:45 pm

OMG! You should read Out of Salem. It isn’t vampires but it is non-binary zombies and lesbian werewolves and witches… and it is incredible. It just came out today. Vampires are such a great topic that needs to be reclaimed from someone who made them sparkle. Just please don’t break ancient vampire rules and I gotcha back lol. That’s my hang-up. It is your art!

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Susan Crosby
March 26, 2019 at 7:46 pm

I meant that the vampire rule breaking pet peeve is my hang-up you do you in your book… it is your art ?

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Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites
March 27, 2019 at 3:10 pm

I’ve seen so, so, so much hype for this book so it’s awesome to hear that it lives up to its reputation! diverse representation is so important, both for identities we share with the characters and those we don’t; thank you for sharing how strongly this book resonated with you ?

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singerofstories
March 31, 2019 at 8:22 pm

The very first time I saw this book, I wasn’t interested. Then I picked it up at a B&N and read the jacket and I was super intrigued. Ironically, just today I was offered a copy by a friend so now I’m going to be jumping in really soon and I am super excited! I can’t wait to read this one!

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Birthday Tag | Brigid L Downey
October 24, 2019 at 8:57 pm

[…] back to We Set the Dark on Fire. So, so, so good and I can not wait for the second one! Read my review here for reasons why the hype was […]

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