Cover Image: Lobizona


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Member Reviews

I wanted to get really into this book, but I just couldn't. It is a great story and decently written, but it just didn't pull me in as I would have liked.
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Unfortunately, this title just really wasn't for me. While the story of this undocumented family was powerful and interesting, the fantasy aspects were really lacking and the execution left me wanting more. The writing was often simple and plain, the characters conveniently unable to make obvious logical assumptions. Also, there were entire conversations in untranslated Spanish, which is fine, but did make it slightly more difficult for me to follow, as I am not great with the language. Which I recognize is a "me problem", but it did impact my reading experience. The reactions to the MC's eyes, the immediate "she's a monster!" narrative is overdone and beyond unrealistic, even in a story about werewolves. Your immediate reaction to gold/silver eyes is superstition? *Everyone* has this same first reaction to a child? And yet the child is not superstitious enough to realize that being locked up, not having to eat or drink for days at a time during the full moon, might be a sign of something?

I'm glad to see so many people loving this work, but it just didn't land for me.
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First off, this cover was so strikingly beautiful, I couldn't help be drawn to it.   Technically YA, but if feels like contemporary fiction with magical realism and I loved it all.
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Wow! This  book was incredible! The discussions on undocumented immigrants, gender roles, and tradition were done so well and I never felt like there was too much being put in the book. This book kept me on my toes throughout and I loved the growth of Manu.  I definitely will be shouting about this book.
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Magical realism, werewolf mythology, Argentinian folklore, elemental witches, and alternate dimensions. Yes please! The world building in this book was fantastic. It has important topics, interesting characters, and unexpected twists you won’t see coming. I enjoyed it so much that I read it in one sitting. It’s such an important story on so many levels that I think everyone should pick it up. 

Thank you to the Publisher and Netgalley for the advanced reader copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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I received this as an eARC for a honest review. 
Thanks to St. Martins Press. 

Lobizona had me enchanted within the first chapter. The characters were beautifully fleshed out and had lots of depth. The locations were perfectly described, and not too drawn out, thus keeping me engaged in the characters story. 
The Spanish was perfectly executed so that even someone not bilingual such as myself, could still read the book and have every word flow effortlessly.
I am so happy I had a chance to read this. I cannot wait to read the next installment from this vivid world.
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I loved this book! The premise is very unique, and I loved that the story line is very relevant to today's political climate and issues. I loved the magic and the wolves. The characters were wonderful.
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I was skeptical of Lilliam Rivera's blurb that this would share a space on my shelf next to Harry Potter. Let's face it: everyone says that. Every book is the next Harry Potter. But I too fell in love with the magic of the Latinx setting. Let's not take away from Garber's work by comparing it to Harry Potter, it can absolutely stand on its own. And it's the kind of work that the world needs right now. Definitely a step in the right direction for publishing.
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This is an eye-opening story about undocumented immigrants and everything they go through : the fear to be deported, how they only want a better life... Poor Manu is confined in a small apartment and can't really go outside, because she's "different".

The book combines magical realism, folklore, werewolves, witches with some teen normalcy that makes everything more plausible. This is one powerful book that I will buy a physical copy of without a doubt. Can't wait to read the second book!!

Many thanks to Wednesday Books for the complimentary e-copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Lobizona by Romina Garber is an addicting story with themes on identity conflict, Argentine folklore, and social commentary on sexism and immigration. The story follows Manu, an undocumented teenager living in Miami with her mother and surrogate grandmother. She has shocking yellow eyes with star-shaped irises that her mother instructs her to hide to avoid her identity being revealed. They hide from her father’s dangerous family, who are out to hunt them. In an all-too-real scene, her mother is arrested and taken by ICE; this acts as the catalyst to Manu’s discovery of her true identity. At this point she also learns that she’s being hunted by the magical equivalent of ICE.

Manu finds herself in a school for brujas and lobizons. Gender roles play a big part in the structure of the school and this magical society. Manu’s arrival breaks all norms and conventions. Along with self-discovery, Manu finds more information about her parents’ love story and details of her father’s past. She also forges friendships for the first time and begins to feel like there is a place in which she belongs.

The author’s use of language is beautiful. It has hints of the romantic touch that Spanish usually elicits in readers, but through English. She also utilizes Spanish phrases and sentences along with translations for non-Spanish speaking readers to accentuate the Hispanic culture, which Manu and everyone around her belong to. Additionally, she utilizes a true story as the basis of her mythical world. There truly were rumors about the Argentine President adopting someone who was believed to be, due to being a seventh son according to superstitious believers, a werewolf. In fact, the part that is true is the tradition that every seventh child in a family is eligible to be the President’s godchild. The author does a great job at weaving together this magical universe of Latinx based witches and werewolves.

This book is a great read set in a fantastic magical universe that confronts societal and individual issues that are familiar to Latinx folks.
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Not at all why I was expecting. So much better. 
This writing is very whimsical and has a amazing world building foundation. I found the characters to be relatable and realistic. Honestly the whole
Boom was just very well written. And that’s cover! Yes please!
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Lobizona is magical and engaging and so much fun. A dash of romance, a hefty dose of witches and werewolves, and a deep-set mystery and hidden secrets leads to a novel that speeds by and leaves you wondering, "How soon can I get book 2?"

Manu is such a relatable character--both in the sense that she wants to be able to see more of the world but is forced to be sheltered, and that she's determined and curious and resilient. She ends up going on this journey to a place akin to magic school (yes, I do love this trope) which is a little weird and steeped in gender conventions and unfamiliar customs, which we'll see Garber slowly tear down.

Even though Manu's family are so important to her, a lot of this book takes place away from family who were taken away from ICE and that she left in her search for answers about her family's past. So even though we don't see much of her dynamics with them, they're always on Manu & the reader's mind.

But we get to also see a lot of other personal connections be forged with the other students of the school as Manu ends up learning about this whole other world that's part of her history that she had never known. (No spoilers!) This may also sound familiar to members of the diaspora. It's exciting and a little bit dark and sinister as Manu has to figure out who to trust and how to fake-it-till-she-makes-it.

The culmination of Lobizona is intense and exciting and I guarantee, 100% worth it. I'm excited to see how Garber continues to deconstruct the male/female lobizon/bruja "traditions" of this world and break it apart even more than she did in Lobizona. Would highly recommend.
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Knocked my socks off. Argentinian lore, werewolves and witches, football (soccer), concepts of gender roles, identity, belonging, Other, and the plight of the undocumented.... this was wonderful.

Concept: ★★★★★
First 50 pages: ★★
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★

Manu is an undocumented Argentinian immigrant living in secret in Miami with her mother. Manu's life is a double-edged sword of secrets—on the one hand, Manu and her mother are in the USA and in hiding from the government, and on the other hand, Manu is also forced into hiding by her own mother because of her unique eyes and an unknown threat from Argentina—the real reason they're living off the government grid.

Manu has golden, luminous eyes with a starburst pattern of silver in the center.

Manu's eyes have made her life a living cage. Her mother won't let her go anywhere, she can't make friends, and everywhere she goes it has to be daylight so that she can wear her mirrored sunglasses. Manu's father had dangerous friends, her mother always said, and they've never stopped looking for Manu and her mother. With her father's eyes, Manu has no choice.

Then Manu's mother is captured by the ICE, America's immigration unit. In the rush of capture, her mother screams at her to flee, to stay in hiding.

Running away from the city on the back of a mysterious pick up truck, she takes an unexpected trip into the wilds of the Everglades and happens upon something she literally can't believe: there's a secret community in a magical mangrove forest, and ALL of the people in it have Manu's luminous eyes.

What's a girl to do, but join them? Manu has no idea what she's in for. (Hint: werewolves and witches and other dimensions, oh MY!)

My thoughts:
AMAZING. I think it's safe to say that this is one of my favorite YA fantasy reads of 2020. This was fresh—and filled with so many unique spins on fantasy tropes that I was shooketh. I loved learning more about Argentinan and Latin American culture, especially as it related to their myths, and I LOVED where the author's imagination took us. (We always need more alternate dimensions in our fantasy.)

Now, to address a mild elephant in the room: some other reviews of this book mention that it's filled with traditional YA tropes and is predictable. I'd like to (politely) disagree, and here's why:

-This is an Argentinian/Latinx/immigrant narrative. Our diverse stories did NOT get a chance to get in on the YA action at the start of the genre in the 2000s and 2010s—so for many of our diverse reads, they're playing with some of these tropes for the first time, and they're writing them for an audience that never saw themselves in Harry Potter, Kiss of Deception, Hunger Games, etc etc etc. YES this story has the magical school trope. So what? I still found enough unique identifiers to set it apart from the rest. YES this story has similar plot devices to other YA fantasies. So what? (No shade, just honest questions. I think our community is sometimes quite hard on YA fantasies.)

-Yes, there's a love interest identified quite early on in the story. So what? While the initial interaction might seem to be instalove or trope-filled, the author immediately back pedals and allows the story to take over. Again, I thought this was well done and deviated enough from the tropes to be relevant.

I could go on, but those are two of the main points. In short, I thought this story was beautiful, extremely relevant to modern American and Latin American concerns (immigration, ICE, etc.), and a fantastic series opener with a great take on werewolves, or the Argentinian lobizones. Also, the quoteable portions of this book - gah. So great.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 stars
This is a magic infused and sometimes really emotional story about the immigrant experience, finding somewhere you can belong, friendship and fighting against a prejudiced system. It’s about being different but still finding a home and a family.

While the execution wasn’t the greatest and it’s clear this is a debut, I found it really entertaining. I loved how big of a role Argentine folklore and culture played in this book. It was amazing learning about and the immigrant experience. And the world Romina Garber constructed is absolutely magical.
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I absolutely loved the representation of Argentinian culture and folklore in Lobizona! This YA fantasy was a thrilling experience that I really enjoyed. This book also touches on many important topics such as race, immigration, prejudice, making this not only an enjoyable fantasy story, but also a book that is sure to strike deep conversations. This book made me cry and books that can trigger real emotions are always worth raving about! I'm excited to talk about Lobizona with other readers. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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I was hooked to Lobizona from the very first line! Something about Romina Garber’s writing and the mood that she was setting just really hooked me. Being a resident of Canada, I hear about ICE and some of the atrocities happening below the border, but not to the extent that I would have if I was living in the U.S.A. I’m sure. I also haven’t been exposed to much literature about American immigrants and their struggles with the corrupt system that’s in place.

As a white immigrant living in Canada, I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to be treated the way immigrants of colour (documented or otherwise) are treated in America. So, Lobizona was new to me from that perspective as well as any folklore and traditions that the magical elements in the book might be based on.

It took less than a paragraph for Romina Garber’s writing to draw me. I was able to visualize everything as if I was there—the sights, the smells, and most of all, the emotions. Obviously I can’t relate to what it would actually be like to always keep an eye out the window, looking out for the red and blue of police lights. But I definitely felt a fraction of the anxiety, which just goes to show how effectively Garber pulled me into the story. I think it’s also important for readers who have not experienced the things that Manu and her mother go through to feel even a fraction of what it might be like.

I won’t go into any more detail because I’d be stepping close to spoiler territory. But, I can emphasize how much I loved the writing—tone, atmosphere, character, setting, descriptions in general—in this book and how important it is to be aware of how others are treated. This year especially, we are learning that turning a blind eye, doing nothing, and being silent is just as harmful as the actions of those being openly and violently hateful. I loved Lobizona, feel honoured to have been able to read it before publication, and greatly look forward to anything else Romina Garber puts out into the world.
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The strength of this story lies in how the author connects supernatural species, Argentinian mythology, and the experience of being undocumented in the US. The entire sports section needed to be removed completely and I think the whole "chosen one" is just not something I can buy into anymore. Especially when she discusses Harry Potter within the book - too many obvious parallels.
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An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher in return of a honest review. This review is part of the official blog tour by Wednesday Books.

Over the past few years, politics and rhetoric of social justice have found a home in YA books. We see characters facing and talking about real issues, but they always seem confined to contemporary – and to historical fiction to some extent. But what about fantasy? Shouldn’t it be the easiest genre to bring up the harsher, uncomfortable conversations? With imaginary utopias and dystopias, kingdoms and empires, fantastical realms that could be perfect allegories – there’s so much potential in fantasy, but for some reason YA fantasies have been largely holding back. I felt like Lobizona was the answer to a question I’ve been thinking about for a while now. It was the most unapologetically political fantasy I’ve read in a while, after probably The Library of Fates, back in 2017. (Of course, this is based on what I have read, I could’ve definitely missed a lot)

Lobizona is the coming of age tale of Manu, an Argentine immigrant who has always yearned to belong. With her unusual eyes, the secrets that seem to haunt her mother, and the fear of deportation hanging over her family’s head, Manu longs to dwell in her dreams and get lost in the fictional worlds she is fond of reading. But when her mother is arrested by ICE, and she discovers a magical realm where her eyes are not unusual anymore, Manu struggles to make a place for herself, while hoping to not lose everything and everyone she holds dear.

The book plunges you right into Manu’s world – a reality of constant fear and uncertainty – from the prologue itself, as the story opens to a ICE raid that kept me holding my breath. But the book doesn’t wallow in the fear, as the readers are also invited to partake in the warmth and love that binds Manu’s small family together. There’s so many trauma porn books out there *cough* American Dirt *cough* written to appease the delicate white guilt, and I am so glad ownvoices narratives like Lobizona exists, to provide a mirror to the multifaceted experience of being an immigrant and being undocumented.

It takes a while for the book to get to its inciting incident. In fact, I felt like I was reading two different books, as there was a defined separation between the two acts, but I really loved that Garber took her time to set up the story. We got to see Manu’s every day life, her family dynamics and get to know her as a girl with dreams and fears, before she is plunged into this magical world of werewolves and brujas.

Reading Lobizona made me feel like I was time traveling back and forth. The issues were very current, but something about the fantasy aspect took me back to old school urban fantasies from the early 2010s. I was reading about werewolves again, and after Manu’s journey takes a fantastical shift, I was really reliving some old tropes that used to be staples of urban fantasy books back then. It was strangely nostalgic, definitely the best of world books, to read this beautifully diverse book capitalizing on seasoned fantasy elements to celebrate Argentine culture and folklore.

Speaking of, the way folklore was weaved into the plot was fantastic. The world was fascinating, and it was a beautiful mirror to the real world. Just as Manu is haunted by ICE agents in urban America, the fantasy realm had its own law enforcement that constantly threatened her sense of belonging and home. Her conflict was so so real – the feeling of being torn between two worlds, but being made to feel like you belong in neither.

I would recommend Lobizona to any fantasy fan, especially if you love anything to do with folklore. It is a stunning fantasy that weaves in Argentine folklore, confronts issues of immigration, misogyny, and narrates a heartwarming tale of coming of age and belonging. I would warn about content warnings for details of ICE arrests, themes of deportation and immigration, and homophobia (challenged).
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4.25 Stars

This book was so wonderful! If you're waffling on if you want to pick this one up, I highly recommend it!

Let's start with the characters. I feel like Manu is so wonderfully done. She feels like a very real girl discovering the world for the first time. Though Manu has been a part of our world all her life, she's never been allowed to do much or leave her home really. So she's not only experiencing the fantasy world in which this story takes place, but she's also learning what it's like to be a teen in a regular social setting and how to deal with best friends and dating. It is such a great look at the teen world, even from a fantasy perspective.

Cata, Saysa, Diego, are all great characters. It's this rag-tag group that allows Manu to be the person she needs to be to hopefully create change in the world some day. The romances in this one kinda took me by surprise and I'm soooo okay with that! It was not what I expected at all.

If you've been around for a while, you know how much I live for political and societal issues in my books. This one has some serious issues. I'm excited to see how the social standards of societal norms change throughout this series. I can tell that Manu is going to struggle to make the changes she hopes for, but I can also see her potential for greatness.

The writing is spectacular. Romina really showed her strengths here and I could not be happier with the outcome.

Side note, this is not the book to skip the author's note on. Read it. You'll cry. I know I did.

Additional side note, I think I'm in the minority when I say I GREATLY dislike the cover. It's just not for me.

Characters 4; Cover 2; Plot 4; Pace 5; Writing 5; Enjoyment 4; Cry 1.
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I really enjoyed Lobizona! Manu was an engaging heroine and her struggles as an undocumented immigrant opened my eyes. The female friendships were a highlight of the book. I didn’t quite like the romance until towards the end but Manu’s friendships with Saysa and Catalina more than made up for it. And I loved how nuanced the discussions about sexism and misogyny were. I also loved this world! The Argentinian folklore was amazing and the world-building was just so cool. Plus Lobizona features a magical school, which is one of my favorite fantasy settings.

Overall, Lobizona was a thoroughly enjoyable read. We absolutely need more books like this and I can’t wait to pick up the sequel.
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