The Moonlit Vine

Lee & Low/Tu Bks. May 2023. 368p. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781643795805.
Gr 6 Up–This debut novel deftly reaches into the graveyard of history to address the lore of Taíno (Indigenous peoples of many Caribbean islands) extinction. This contemporary YA centers around Ty, a 14-year-old girl whose neighborhood is in the throes of gentrification. Ty and other children of color in her community have to confront the failings of public education, the over policing of schools, the humiliation heaped on poor women who have to ask for public assistance, and all manner of other injustices that mushroom under a structure of oppression. Her story parallels that of Anacaona, the warrior leader attempting to save her Indigenous people from first contact with colonizers. The two time lines and storylines bring history and realistic fiction to a tense intersection. Hundreds of years later, these stories and Ty’s life finally weave together. Ty’s grandmother passes on a small handheld zemis that contains the names of all the mothers going back to Anacaona. The unlocking of this charm gives Ty and her community the ancestral strength and power needed to save lives and bring justice to heartbroken mothers. Santiago’s text, while tackling unsavory history, does not soften the content for the middle grade reader. Simple sentence structures and comprehensive language still deliver a goldmine of story telling. With compassion and tenderness, this same structure brings to the page the upheavals that Ty confronts. Looming large over all of the conflicts is Ty’s inspirational courage and love for her family.
VERDICT An excellent choice for all YA shelves.

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