The Last Cuentista

Pura Belpré Honor-winning author Donna Barba Higuera (Lupe Wong Won't Dance) deftly blends Mexican folklore with science fiction in this thrilling and emotional post-apocalyptic novel.

When a solar flare sends Halley's Comet careening toward Earth in 2061, the government selects a group of "scientists, terra-formers and leaders" to inhabit another planet. After a 380-year-long stasis, 12-year-old Petra Peña, a Mexican American who longs to tell "cuentos" (stories) like her abuelita back on Earth, wakes up to discover that her family is gone, and a group called the Collective has hijacked the mission. The Collective has erased and reprogrammed the passengers' memories--"purging" those unwilling to abide--to "create a new history," one with no conflict or war but also without "differences in culture, in appearance, knowledge." Petra, who still has her memories, must use her storytelling abilities and quick wit to help the remaining passengers remember themselves before they're lost to the Collective forever.

In The Last Cuentista, Higuera, a grand cuentista herself, seamlessly weaves Mexican folklore with science fiction, balancing ancestral cuentos with the new suspenseful and dangerous stories Petra is living. Even though Petra is alone in her endeavor, her family is ever-present in her dreams, thoughts and stories, guiding her through her decisions and helping her navigate a new world. Higuera cleverly incorporates memories into present-day narration, which not only makes for a compelling story but also drives home Higuera's point that "by honoring the past, our ancestors, our cultures--and remembering our mistakes--we become better." A prime example of the importance of storytelling. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

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