- Julian Randall
- Genre: MG Fantasy
- Background: Dominican American
- Instagram: @julianthepoet; Twitter: @JulianThePoet; https://juliandavidrandall.com/
- Release: 3/1/2022 (There is zero excuse not to have it now)
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (MacMillan Imprint)
- Favorite Character: Carmen! She would be someone that I would be equally intrigued but annoyed by because she’s capable of so much & is super passionate but she’s also a bit of a know it all & pushy…for all I know, we could be related, lol!
- Favorite Quote(s): “Bad smell, razor sharp claws and y’all got hops? Are you sure y’all aren’t eighth graders?”-Pilar. I hollered out loud when I read this! She was in a pretty tight spot (as she often is in the book, you’ll see when you read) and her response to what she was seeing was hysterical! She has many brilliant liners, especially when her statements include “entiendes?“!
*So before I start, I’m going to say that this post is a part of a Blog Tour for Pilar Ramirez. Even if it wasn’t, there would still be a post about this book because I loved Pilar and her journey so much! Pretty much, this disclaimer just means that this post is happening in the publisher’s time frame rather than mine and I’m fine with that, lol*
When I discovered Pilar Ramirez And The Escape From Zafa, I was on one of my random searches through netgalley and the cover caught my attention. I, of course, hit that “read now” button (cause I will not ever get over the flex that is an auto-approval on netgalley, lol) with the quickness! To give you all more of a timeline on my love for Pilar, some months later, MacMillan hosted a happy hour with Julian that gave me even more insight to Pilar and her story that only deepened my appreciation of this book. As someone who is Half-Haitian, it was so affirming to hear a Dominican author speak on things I grew up hearing about (though from another side from the same Island). So, when an email was sent out about the blog tour, you obviously know what my answer was cause we are here now, a day earlier than my usual posting day *kool-aid smile*, lol! There is an Instagram live of me doing an unboxing of Pilar Ramirez, that you can watch here so you can see my love for this book for yourself!
From the first sentence, I was absolutely HOOKED and knew that Pilar was the type of kid that I could see myself and so many other kids I know in. She’s very self-aware and when she spoke about being observant and I was like “ooo girl, we are the same” because as a kid, I was constantly watching other people, their actions and listening to their words, only I didn’t have a camera to record like Pilar did. Pilar made it known that she aspired to be a director and was making moves towards making that happen. She’s the type that KNOWS she has a lens and that very little gets past her as well as how to form her opinions & voice so she could be heard. I love how she knew the people so well around her that she could formulate what her responses/requests/arguments (choose one, lol) should sound like in order to get what she wants/needs. Pilar is so clever and has such a swag about her that you wouldn’t want to ignore her even if you tried! She’s just that girl! Honestly, Pilar gave off teen from NY but she made it very clear that she is from the Chi!
Another thing that I loved about Pilar is that she is a storyteller. She knew how to set up the story and keep those listening rapt. This is the part that made the book special to me because my grandpa was a natural storyteller, so she made me feel closer to her. Along with the mythology that brings this story to life, there was also historical gems throughout that could’ve been overwhelming but wasn’t in how it was woven into the fabric of the story. Thinking about it, I wish I wouldn’t mind listening to the audiobook because of how Pilar speaks and how animated I imagine her to be! Growing up, I used to hear about Duvalier and his exploits in Haiti so I understood Pilar and her feelings toward Trujillo & his tyranny in the Dominican Republic. Trujillo wasn’t mentioned by my Grandpa so I learned about a history that drew such a parallel to my paternal family’s homeland that subconsciously, I knew it. How Pilar and the others in the story felt about Trujillo, I felt too, especially the anger that felt skin and soul deep over the injustices that their people faced. However, if I’m being honest (which I am), I would’ve felt the same had I not grown up hearing similar stories because of the way that Pilar and other characters spoke about the experiences of their people. Truly, if my Grandpa were still here, I would’ve gotten him a copy so he could read it and we could talk about this book (and I know he would’ve read it and been delighted in the mixture of Spanish throughout since he was fluent.)
Julian did a bang up job in building the fantastical world of Zafa. I loved Zafa and the adventure that Pilar was dropped into (literally and there is more to that aspect) and that it brought us an interesting cast of characters. Through this shift in worlds, we were able to meet my homie Carmen and La Negra (there are so many more to meet, don’t worry). I’ll leave you find out about La Negra when you read the book but I’ll tell you a bit of what I loved about Carmen.
Carmen is a fierce character that acts first then talks about it later. She’s the person you would want on your side in a fight because if you weren’t fighting with her, you’re against her and it would be your funeral. She gives off Big Okoye Energy, if you are a Black Panther fan, cause she’s basically a warrior Gawdess. She is just as passionate as Pilar about the people she loves and her world, which makes them a match made in heaven but also funny to watch when they clash… especially when lots of motion is involved (you gotta read to find out what I mean by that, lol)! Carmen is a character that has a backstory that I believe I would love reading as well (some secondary characters deserve their own books…a companion novel/series isn’t too much to ask for, I don’t think)! Honestly, I’d just want to be in Zafa for as long as Julian would allow me to me, lol!
Seriously, if you haven’t added Pilar Ramirez And The Escape From Zafa to your TBR, some bookstores shopping cart and/or library requests then what exactly are you doing with your life? This is the type of fantasy that my pre-teen/teen self would’ve loved but I’m grateful that I got to read it as an adult! If you want an excuse to read it and talk about it, The Magical Black Kids Book Club will be reading Pilar Ramirez for April and I promise you will want to talk about this book after you read it! The linked post talks about the book club and has a sign up link to receive emails, there’s no fee to join and all ages are welcome (Kids have the first word though)!
Aiight, I’m going to end this post here before I think of more to talk about and keep you here for another 30 minutes rambling about what I loved about this book! If you want to holler at me, you know you can find me out in the interwebs on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can find me mostly in book centered clubs/rooms (primarily on Tuesdays and Fridays). Also please subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already because it makes me feel like I just read a book my pre-teen self would’ve loved and obsessed over! As always, I’m sending y’all bookish love and wishing you happy reading!