Review of Secret of the Moon Conch

Secret of the Moon Conch Secret of the Moon Conch
by David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall
High School    Bloomsbury    464 pp.
6/23    9781547609895    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781547609901    $13.99

In 2019, the night before she plans to flee Mexico for the U.S. seeking safety and her father, Sitlali discovers a conch in ocean waves. Five centuries earlier, in 1521, Calizto, who is under threat from Spanish invaders in the Aztec Empire, finds the same sacred conch, associated with the goddess of the moon. Magically connected, at first through thoughts and then with physical senses increasing with the moon’s waxing, the two teens separated by time form a friendship that blossoms into a smoldering, centuries-defying romance. The fantastical elements of the conch and Sitlali’s ability to see spirits enhance the deeply human experiences of love and perseverance through strife but do not alleviate the historical and present-day horrors wrought on the teens by colonialism and its effects, via conquistadors and ICE. The novel’s in-depth battle scenes, war strategizing, and world-building will appeal to fans of fantasy and action (though other readers may find them too numerous). Modern-day teens will recognize the trials in Sitlali’s life as she tries to battle systemic injustice and to forge a relationship with the father who abandoned her years earlier. Acts of violation and brutality are excruciatingly captured, but so are scenes of tenderness and transcendence. By turns heartfelt and heart-pounding, this story will grip readers to the final pages. Front matter includes a glossary of Nahuatl terms and information on gods and legendary and historical figures.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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