- Author: Kaela Rivera
- Genre: MG Fantasy
- Background-Born to Mexican-American and British parents!
- IG-@kaelacub; Twitter: @kaela_rivera_; www.kaelarivera.com
- Release Date: 4/13/2021 (out NAOW!)
- Publisher: Harper (Imprint of HarperCollins)
- Favorite Character-So I’ve kind of went back and forth about this because I love CeCe so much but I loved Coyote just a weeeeee bit more! So I’m going with Coyote and CeCe comes in an extremely close second!
- Favorite Quote(s)–Both are from the homie, Coyote! 1st: “You’re crying again. I don’t know what to do–stop.” So I imagine someone saying this to me because, like CeCe, I’m a crier and it can be a lot…but just imagining him saying this was hysterical to me! 2nd: “What in Desert’s Voices was that for?” I love non-cursing cursing, especially if it is something very specific to the book’s world! I have other favorites but I don’t want to give away anything from the book!
It’s been a little while since I’ve written about a Middle Grade book and I think it’s about time that I did…and I couldn’t think of a better book to write about this week than CeCe Rios And The Desert Of Souls! I’m going to start by saying that this book wasn’t on my radar prior to receiving it in a box of ARCs that I received from an amazing person from HarperCollins and I’m mad about it…because this book was simply INCREDIBLE and deserved SO MUCH MORE publicity than it seemed to have received. Since I started reading this book, I have not shut up about it…from the very first sentence, I was HOOKED! Kaela got my attention in the most spectacular way and I completely ate up that first chapter in like 10 minutes, which HAD to be a record for me! I fail to understand why such an awe-inspiring, heart-filling, eye-leak inducing book didn’t get more bells & whistles than it did but I’m going to do my best to hype CRATDOS up and do it some justice. So, let’s get into it!
First of all, this is book is packed with Latinx mythology and anyone who knows me, knows that I loveeeeeeeeee mythology! I learned some new stories and I appreciated every single one…it made me want to hop on google and just get lost in a rabbit hole of it! The way that Kaela wove in these stories was simply genius! These weren’t just stories being told around a fire (nothing wrong with this either) but the main characters who were at the center of these stories are actually sharing their side…who WOULDN’T want a book where the character driving the myths is telling their story?! My geeky heart was so full with the way that these stories were written. It made me want to keep reading just to see what the characters would say or do next! I didn’t want to put this book down…AT ALL! So needless to say, this book was a page turner like a mug!
Despite CRATDOS taking place in a desert, it felt so rich and no where near dry. It was so layered in not just its landscaping but also it’s history, culture (of course) and the characters. If a price could be placed on her world building, Kaela clearly spared no expense! From capturing the architecture to the climate, the vibe of the village & it’s people, the stories that built the belief systems and the criaturas themselves, it all felt so natural and had this beautiful flow to it…nothing felt out of place (that wasn’t on purpose) and the pacing was just *chef’s kiss*. I felt like I was in the story the entire time when I was reading and when I wasn’t, I was thinking about the story; which is the mark of an incredible book! You couldn’t catch me in a desert but I would go to this place just to be able to see the criaturas & hear their stories myself! CRATDOS seriously needs to become a TV series and I’mma need whoever decides to option it NOT to jack it up…this book deserves an adaptation worthy of it, for sure!
Lemme talk a little about the characters because the character development is stellar in this book! I’m going to start with my fav, Coyote because his character really surprised me! The way we first met him was not in a way that one would think and the next time we see him, he was completely different! He was basically if “everything is not as it appears to be” were a person! While he is actually quite sweet-natured, he grappled a lot with his legends and how others perceived him, which weighed him down. This was actually something he had in common with CeCe (sans legends/myths). Another thing I love about Coyote is how fiercely protective and loyal he is. He looked out for CeCe (and anothers), speaking up when he had reservations, stepping in when CeCE needed his assistance and helped figure out solutions when needed…he basically created a partnership with CeCe, which was against the norm in their world! Coyote was able to not just give CeCe balance but also gain it from her as well…it’s what a great friendship is truly made of!
From the moment that CeCe’s sister Juana stepped onto the page, she was a force! Super fiery and sassy, I instantly fell in love with her character. It was so apparent in how she loved CeCe because she would try her best to give encouraging words. However, she still had so much to learn about CeCe and acceptance. She saw what CeCe was dealing with from both their parents and the townspeople but didn’t always consider the words that came from her mouth…lack of filter is a bit of a problem in this case. Juana was definitely a truth teller, which y’all know I love a person who keeps it 100, but she certainly had lessons she needed to learn herself! As a fellow big sister, I had some of the same moments that Juana had and deeply related to her. Anyone could have the best of intent but ya know what they say about good intentions *shrug*. Even though Juana wasn’t around a lot of the book, you could feel how CeCe carried her in her thoughts and how she drove her to push forward when she wasn’t always so sure of herself (there were some WWJD, What Would Juana Do, type moments for sure). Juana was the fire when CeCe’s Spirit was dampened and needed to dry up quickly (pun, kind of intended)!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to talk about CeCe… I would call her CeCe the courageous even if she wouldn’t believe it! She went through so much but kept her resolve the entire time. CeCe had a mission and an outcome she wanted to see and didn’t stop until she made it happen or got close. Despite the fact that she carried the perceptions of others of her, she persisted which endeared me to her even more. She fought so hard to be seen for more than the tears she shed and the box that the people around her packed her away in. CeCe is so big-hearted, compassionate, emotional and intelligent…things that the townspeople and even her parents saw as weakness! This drove me insaneeee and I wanted to shout at & fight those people on her behalf! There were so many moments where I wished I could hug her and I also cheered her on because she really deserved that. I hope that kids who also wear their hearts on their sleeves and express themselves with tears see themselves in CeCe and grow along with her. Another thing I loved about CeCe is how knowledgeable she was and how she embraced the legends…she, too, is a nerd and I connected heavily with her reverence for the stories, her culture & community! CeCe is a main character we definitely need more of in literature!
Something else I loved about this story is how Kaela folded in lessons throughout without being obvious about it. Rather than there just being one big moral to the story, there were so many small to medium ones wrapped up like gems… and not just for kids but adults too. One of my biggest takeaways from this book is the importance of seeing the heart of people and not taking what is different as a weakness. There are so many like CeCe and the criaturas in the story that are highly misunderstood and undervalued. A character like CeCe that chose to go against the norm, to see someone/something for who/what they are inside rather than the external appearance is part of what makes this book so incredible!
CeCe Rios And The Desert Of Souls was seriously one of the best reads for me this year! It’s so decadent in all that it offers and Kaela did an incredible job! It is absolutely worth your time and really anyone who comes across it! I’m praying for a sequel because I loved CeCe & her crew so much and because I believe that there is so much more mythology that could be explored and adventures that could be had! I have, in fact, inquired about if there would be a sequel and Kaela gave a bit of a veiled response…so let’s hope that that indicates that there will be another book because I…I mean WEEEEEEE need more of this story…really, more stories like this one period!
Welp everyone, I’m going to end it here…really, only because I don’t want to end up in spoiler territory but know I could talk even more about CeCe Rios And The Desert Of Souls because it is simply an amazing book that deserves ALL OF THE HYPE! So my peeps, as usual, I’m wishing you all Happy Reading and sending Bookish love your way! Feel free to find and follow me on all of the social medias: Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can typically find me in book centered club rooms for more bookish banter! Until next time, laterrrrrrrrr!