Author: Romina Garber
Publishing date: August 25th 2020
Published by:Wednesday Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
Some people ARE illegal. Lobizonas do NOT exist. Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida. Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
CWs: ICE raids, anti-immigration sentiments, homophobia, sexism, and gender essentialism.
Lobizona takes elements that are common in the fantasy genre like an alternate dimension, werewolves, witches, a magical school and a magical sport, and it infuses them with Argentinian folklore and culture, which makes this book unique and captivating.
Magical World and Argentinian Culture
In this book, there’s the regular world, a magical dimension and also in-between spaces where Lobizones (werewolves) and witches live, and the history of the creation of these magical beings and this in-between spaces, as well as the explanation of why they are kept hidden from humans in the regular world, is incredibly well thought out and seamlessly incorporates Argentinian myths. Moreover, it’s amazing how many little details in this book come from Argentinian culture. Romina Garber included mate, tango, conversations about soccer and Leonel Messi, and even a whole magical sport that’s inspired by soccer.
Lovable Characters and Captivating Relationships
The protagonist of Lobizona is Manu, an Argentinian girl who has a very isolated life because she is an undocumented immigrant and also because she has very distinctive eyes that mark her as different. Romina Garber manages to transmit Manu’s loneliness, anger, and frustration at her situation so perfectly, which makes it easy to connect with her and root for her as she goes on this journey to find out who she is, where she comes from, and where she belongs.
The friends that Manu makes along the way area a big part of her journey. Tiago, Cata, and Saysa are great characters, they all have their own obstacles that they need to overcome and things that they need to work on, which makes them very engaging. I loved the friendship between the three girls, it has a rocky start but seeing them grow closer and learn to care for each other warmed my heart. The main romance in this book is cute, Manu and Tiago are growing and learning as individuals and I think that’s going to make their romance even better in the next book. Also, there’s a sapphic romance in this and honestly, I had to stop reading and take five minutes to freak out about it, I hope we get to see more of it in the sequel.
Lobizona does a great job of addressing immigration and the current situation that a lot of immigrants are facing right now in the States. This book portraits the constant fear that immigrants live in, the limitations that they have to endure, and the cruelty that they suffer at the hands of organizations like ICE.
This book also includes discussions about sexism and gender essentialism within this magical world and even the Argentinian society. According to the myth, all women are witches and all men are Lobizones, and this is not the only thing determined by gender in this world, women are expected to have children so their species doesn’t disappear and they have certain restrictions place on them like the fact that they can’t play the magical sport that exists in this world. Of course, the fact that Manu is a Lobizona renews the discussion about the unfairness of these gender roles that some people were trying to have even before Manu showed up. By addressing how limited this view of the world is, the book also starts conversations about how transphobic and queerphobic the system in this magical world is and, beyond that, how transphobic and queerphobic Latinx cultures are too.