Review of Never Look Back

Never Look Back
by Lilliam Rivera
High School    Bloomsbury    320 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-5476-0373-2    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0374-9    $13.29

Pheus is an Afro-Dominican, bachata-singing teen whose Bronx world is upended when he meets Eury, a Puerto Rican girl visiting New York after she is forced from her home in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Suddenly, instead of spending his time charming girls and going to the beach, Pheus feels driven to allay the trauma that follows Eury. Eury is hoping the evil spirit Ato, who has haunted her life since childhood, won’t follow her to New York, and meeting Pheus distracts her temporarily from her troubles. But eventually, when she is attacked and falls into a coma, Ato finds her and takes her to el Inframundo (the Underworld), and Pheus follows on a quest to save her. This detailed reimagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice mixes contemporary realism with fantasy, starting with the backbone of the Greek myth and adding elements of Caribbean mythology alongside realistic issues of identity and trauma, as Eury’s loved ones debate the best way to help her in her struggles with anxiety. Though one could enjoy this story without prior knowledge of the myth, knowing the original will likely give readers a unique appreciation for this version’s updates.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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