Cover Image: Lobizona

Lobizona

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Member Reviews

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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Lobizona // by Romina Garber

"Go forth and shatter every convention."

Secret. Anormal. Illegal. These are the kinds of words that have defined Manu's life and identity for as long as she can remember. But when her mother is arrested by ICE and her surrogate grandmother hurt in an "accident" that leaves her hospitalized, Manu is on the run. In an effort to find out more about the man that she has seen hanging around her apartment complex, she dares to do something she never would've expected from her self before: she follows him. The things she discovers are quite literally out of this world but she tries to adapt quickly in an effort to fit in - something she has never been able to do before. But in a world that seems more binary and brutal than even ours, the struggle may become more than she can handle. Will she be able to find what she is so desperately looking for?

Wow. I can comfortably say that this book is unlike any other fantasy book I have read before. I absolutely ADORE the premise of this series and love themes of this book: immigration (specifically undocumented immigrants), binary vs. nonbinary, identity, loyalty, myths and tradition, male vs. female, and love. I love how the author managed to entwine all of these important themes so smoothly with a new world of magic. It never felt like there was too much going on at the same time, like she was trying to shove in more than was necessary. But despite the many things that I love about this novel, something was still lacking. I struggled with the pacing of the story and how easily Manu fit into the group without being found out right from the start. There were several times where things just work too... easily or quickly. It almost felt like we were setting up for a big scene but then it was over too quickly just to move along the story. It almost feels like a debut novel that promises big things in the coming books of the series. I'm generally bad about reading the notes of authors and other extra pages at the end of a book, but I am really glad I did this time. That little bit added another level of the importance of this book for me.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I really hope to read the next one soon. This is one of those that will stay with me for a while.

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There’s a lot going on in Garber’s new series and a lot of it I truly appreciated and enjoyed.

First, I really appreciated that perspective of the story is told by Manu who is undocumented and feels caught between worlds. We don’t often see novels from this marginalized perspective and after reading and listening to some interviews with the author, it seems that centering this perspective and the danger, fear, and strength that goes along with it, was of high importance. Moreover, I loved the Argentinian focus of the novel and the Spanglish throughout. (Though apparently the Kirkus reviewer found it “tiresome” *rolls eyes*)

Additionally, although a certain moments I feared that the novel might slip in to YA tropes that I dislike such as love triangles, magical schools, the ‘Chosen One’, etc. However, Garber deftly unpacks these and turns some tropes on their head. In particular, there are clear allusions to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter but rather than merely replicating Harry Potter with a veneer of Latinx, Garber dismantles and pokes holes into this. Garber plays with ideas related to prescribed gender, being pigeon-holed into being good a certain activities based on gender, as well as deciding to be symbol of a movement versus fighting existing systems simply by living and finding love and friendship.

This has plenty of teenage angst, young love and lust, the idealism of youth, and some truly villainous characters and structural systems. My only complaint is that certain parts in the middle seemed to be bogged down by the world building of the magical school and then the ending seemed a bit to fast. This is a YA that will appeal to many fans and neatly fits into the genre while also feeling wholly original.

This first novel in the series is all about discovering where you come from, forging your own path, and dismantling systems and categories that aren’t designed for you. I would highly recommend this novel and after a cliffhanger ending I can’t wait to read the next novel.

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LOBIZONA BLOG TOUR: EXCERPT AND REVIEW
Aug 10, 2020







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Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.




Early Praise:
“With vivid characters that take on a life of their own, beautiful details that peel back the curtain on Romina's Argentinian heritage, and cutting prose that shines a light on the difficulties of being the ‘other’ in America today, Romina Garber crafts a timely tale of identity and adventure that every teenager should read.”–Tomi Adeyemi New York Times bestselling author of Children of Blood and Bone



“Romina Garber has created an enthralling young adult fantasy led by an unforgettable Latinx character Manu. In Manu we find a young girl who not only must contend with the injustice of being undocumented she also discovers a hidden world that may explain her very existence. I fell in love with this world where wolves, witches and magic thrives, all in a rich Latinx setting!” –Lilliam Rivera, author of Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez



Buy Link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/lobizona/





Review:
Lobizona by Romina Garber is amazing. I really loved that it is about Aregentina culture, folklore, and immigration. I thought it was so interesting to go into this book with the little bit of knowledge that I had.

Manuela Azul is an undocumented immigrant that is running from her father's crime family. Everything completely falls apart when her mother is taken away by ICE. Manuela wants to say her mom starts to follow clues that end up leading her to mysterious world.

This story is so well written and very magical. It gripped me from the very beginning and I couldn't put it down. I thought Garber did such a great job touching on each subject she brought into the book. I really enjoyed all the characters. I thought they were all well written. I enjoyed all the friends that Manuela made along her journey.

The world building was so thought out and beautifully written. I felt like I was really able to escape into the story. Garber did such an amazing job. This is definitely a book that everyone should read.

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Lobizona is a gripping and impactful book that will demand your entire attention for the very first page. With characters that develop flawlessly and a unique worldbuilding, it sends a message of the importance of family and friendship bonds and the need to break the binary rules that the world imposes on us –fantasy or not.

When I started this book, I feared the pace was going to be a negative factor. It has a slow beginning and throws you into the story without giving you many explanations, which can be confusing. But after hitting the 20% mark you the story finally kicks off and the pace improves significantly. After that, I didn’t have issues with the pace. On the contrary, the story flows smoothly, giving you lots of action but also peaceful moments that are very important on the development of the characters.

Manu quickly became one of my favorite female protagonists. Her development through the story was amazing, going from being a lonely and lost girl, clueless about everything that surrounded her to become this empowered, fearless version of herself that would do everything to show the world she is not forbidden and her mere existence is not a crime. Even when the romance is not the main focus of the story I enjoyed to read her love story with Tiago, they were very sweet together and gave a pure, innocent vibe.

The side characters were all very great. Cata, Manu’s roommate in El Laberinto came off as rude at the beginning but proved to be more complex that she let on. Saysa was very sweet and overall a great friend. I loved Manu’s interactions with Tiago, as I already said, and all the other characters are a great complement to the plot. Even when there were many characters in the book it wasn’t confusing, and I loved to see Manu forging friendship bonds with the people from El Laberinto.

The worldbuilding takes the spotlight on this book. It’s unique, magical and immersive. The author built this magical realm called Lunaris and its people (the Septimus) with its own magical system, rules, careers and even sports. The descriptions transcend the page and take you into that fantastic world, and it’s like being at home somehow. The way everything is described gives this familiar, warm vibe and it’s a great world to escape to.

I’ve seen some people say that this book is “like Harry Potter but with wolves and witches”, and I respectfully disagree with that. Indeed, this book is influenced by Harry Potter and you can clearly see that as you read –Manu herself is a huge HP fan and constantly compares herself with Harry and his journey. There is also a magical school and yes, both Manu and Harry question what their identity really is and are forced into the spotlight for being different. But this book is so much more than that and, unlike Harry Potter, is very focused on defying the rules society imposes on people, also having a very powerful message on feminism and anti-xenophobia.

The only complain I have with this book is that for non-Spanish speaking people it can become confusing. While most of the Spanish dialogue is translated or explained in English, there are parts that aren’t explained or translated and may confuse the reader. However, Spanish is my native language and I loved to read all the dialogues that were in Spanish, it made this book more personal to me. I loved to see the role Latinx literature played in this book, mentioning classics such as Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude). Books are Manu’s way to escape reality and it was a great addition to the story.

Lobizona defies the rules that are set for both Septimus and humans, as Manu is in danger in both of the worlds she belongs to. It sends an impactful message against misogyny and xenophobia, and it shows that no matter how fantastical the world, addressing issues like these is always important and necessary. Manu didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere, and it was very eye-opening to see her discovering that her mission maybe is not finding the place she belongs, but to create one on her own for herself and the people like her out there.

Overall, I loved this book and everything I learned because of it. It made me reflect on many things, but also had me on the edge of my seat, so invested in whatever these characters were going to do next. I highly suggest everyone to read Lobizona, because I promise it won’t leave you feeling indifferent.

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i was excited when i read the blurb for lobizona and saw that it was partially based on argentinian myths and folklore. while i am not culturally argentinian, i lived in buenos aires for several years and have a soft spot for that messy south american country,

for manu azul, the messy country isn't actually the one her forebearer's came from, but rather the american soil she lives on that fails to protect her at every turn. the contemporary content is topical and highlights the struggles of so many south american immigrants in this country. the poor treatment and racism they face, and the lack of acknowledgement that the issues they were fleeing from were valid and yet america fails to offer safe harbor.

manu must find her own way forward, which is fraught with more danger than she could have expected. especially given all she learns about her own heritage.

**lobizona will publish on august 4, 2020. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.

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Romina Garber’s Lobizona is energetic, compulsory read that centers real-world issues in a fantasy setting that’s hard to put down. Manu has lived on the outskirts of society for as long as she can remember. As undocumented immigrants, Manu and her mother have had to build a life for themselves around the confines of their immigration status while also outrunning her father’s criminal family who doesn’t know Manu exists. Manu dreams of finding a place to belong, but that feels nearly impossible when she isn’t normal no matter how much she wants to be. Then Manu and her mother’s luck runs out and a series of events leads Manu to discover her mother has been keeping secrets. When ICE detains her mother, Manu is left on her own, trying to understand why her mother has been lying to her for years. Her questions lead her to a mysterious school and a world full of werewolves and witches. Here Manu discovers the truth of her origins and the truth about the father she thought was dead.

Manu has spent her entire life hiding a part of herself. She’s never felt the kind of freedom most citizens take for granted. Her guard is always up and she knows one mistake could mean deportation for her and her mother. Friends have never been an option for her, because beside her immigration status, she is also hiding the fact that she inherited her father’s eyes. Not unusal in itself, but considering they are yellow and her pupils are stars, definitely something that would be alarming to others. Manu knows she’s different, but she’s only been given half truths from her mother and unable to fully understand why every full moon she is struck with debilitating pain from her menstrual cycle, so severe that she must be sedated. When she discovers that werewolves and witches exist, her world opens up but she is still forced to hide parts of herself. Lobizona is very much about Manu claiming her identity, fully embracing herself, and declaring to the world that she exists and that she matters.

I loved the world building in Lobizona. Latinx fantasy is still something that feels novel. Garber builds a world rooted in Argentine folklore. Werewolves and witches exist and are called Septemis, but are limited to a system that upholds the gender binary and patriarchy. Manu’s very existence challenges these ideas. The Septimus have kept their world separate from humans and there is a tendency to look down on humanity as less than themselves. There’s an emphasis on procreation which doesn’t allow Septimus to have children with humans. There is also a side f/f relationship which challenged many of these ideas that wish we had a chance to explore more of, but I am looking forward to seeing this couple in the sequel.

Manu’s strongest relationship is with her mother. She’s been her guiding light, the one person who sees all of her and accepts her. When Manu discovers her mother has been lying to her for years, it shakes her to her core. She’s always had her mother to help her navigate the world and suddenly she doesn’t anymore. At El Laberinto, a hidden school for Septimus, Manu discovers that she is no longer alone. These teens are just like her and even though she is still trying to find her footing in this new world, just being a part of a group that accepts her is new and heartening. Manu develops a connection with the werewolf Tiago, but this is made complicated by his relationship with another student. I loved Manu’s friendship with the kind Saysa and the prickly Catalina. Saysa becomes the first person to accept her and though her relationship with Catalina is a bit more rocky, I loved how their relationship ended up feeling earned.

Romina Garber’s Lobizona is an action-packed fantasy that takes readers on a wild ride with a protagonist you can’t help but root for.

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3 1/2 stars...

So, I try very hard to always find the positives in a book. Lobizona is extremely well-written and peppered with some very timely social struggles. Unfortunately, I fought to get into the story from the beginning. Even though there was a lot to keep up with, I felt like it was dragging. The heroine, Manu had so many stresses. She had to be concerned about people seeing her unusual eyes, her absent father's criminal ties, ICE and the fact that she simply wasn't like everyone else. She just happens to be the first female werewolf in her culture. It was all quite clever. Romina Garber was able to blend folklore with modern day events and hardships and give the reader a multi-dimensional story.

I'm a huge fantasy fan and always love to find a new series. Unfortunately, for me, this book and I just didn't click. I tried so hard - - I'm sure it's due to my personal tastes because there are several reviewers that simply adored this book. I wish I had been one of them.

Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for this ARC.

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I’m torn because I really loved this
Book and I’m really excited for the sequel. It’s relevant to today but It lagged just a bit so I docked it half a star.
Manu is an illegal immigrant who lives with her mom and 95 Perla. Manu is trapped inside because she has different color and shapes eyes. If she was discovered her mother and her could be deported or could be in danger. She lives her life thru books and dreams. When ICE takes her mom, she runs off and ends up in the place from her dreams. This book Tackles immigration, sexism, and individuality. It’s steeped in folklore and fantasy and magical realism. It comes together beautifully. It’s very vivid and excited. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends.

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A slow-burn plot wise, that felt more like magical realism than a high fantasy book (which I love!), and a refreshing read from the other YA were-wolf books. I love the current issues that were addressed in the book, and the writing was great.

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Wow! I just finished reading Lobizona, and I'm still coming down from that world. No Spoilers Follow!
Manu's world is Miami where she lives a constrained life with her mother. Staying invisible is the way for them to survive, whether from ICE or her father's people, who killed him and would surely kill Manu and her mother...if they could find them. It works until the day everything comes crashing down. Manu is now on her own for the first time in her life. Her mother's last word to her, RUN!, sets Manu on a unknown path towards her destiny and her true identity, and where she fits in the world.
The people were flesh and blood, the story kept me guessing what would happen next, and I swear I could feel that sticky Miami heat. I particularly enjoyed the Argentine flavor of the storytelling.
My only regret is that I have to wait until next year to read the next book!

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What an amazing story! I don’t usually like politically centric books but this one is a winner. Manu is an undocumented immigrant living every minute in fear that ICE will knock down her door and deport her and her mother back to Argentina. Add to that her strange eyes she needs to cover with reflective sunglasses anytime she’s allowed to leave her tiny apartment, and that she doesn’t know anything about her father or her family outside her mom, it’s amazing that Manu has lived this long in a high stress environment while remaining sane.
The story has somewhat of a slow start but it picks up when Manu stumbles unto a secret school for people with similar eyes.. there’s a lot of self discovery, character growth, deep friendship developments, and even some romance :) this book really has it all. It was absolutely beautiful and I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Leaving reviews on goodreads and amazon.

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It’s hard press to find the magical world until you are deep driving into the book. Which sets it up for another book in the series. Very interesting and mysterious to say the least. The characteristics of the characters are there which makes you want to keep reading till the end.
With the many twist and turns through out the book, you never want it quit reading every page that dropped you into this world. I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants a fun read.

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This one just wasn't for me. I was expecting werewolf and witch fantasy but instead it was more contemporary. At first I thought I liked the beautiful writing style but that quickly changed for me and quickly became bored with the story. It also lacked emotion. Other than the physical pain the MC experienced, there was no other emotion, even when her mother was taken by ICE! Manu seemed upset at first but then once she reached the school for werewolves and witches, her mother was mostly forgotten. Once she is at the school, nothing happens at the school other than the constant game playing that is similar to soccer. There weren't any classes, so how exactly was this a school? It does leave on a mild cliffhanger; but I don't care enough to want to read the next book.

Thank you Wednesday books for my arc

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When I first heard about Lobizona, I couldn’t help being captivated by such an interesting premise! After all, Manu’s story of survival and self-discovery ends up being full of Argentine folklore, Latin American struggles we can learn more of, bilingualism, magic and even wolves! I’m not a big fan of wolves that have to deal with werewolves, but I can say this was an exception thanks to the legendary and magical part of it all. Which is why I loved reading about the legend of the Lobizón from Perla or Manu whenever she remembered it and how, as the story moves on, we get to learn the truth behind it. Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the magic and the Hogwarts vibes we can find in El Jardín—a magic school where boys learn how to be werewolves while girls study to become powerful brujas.

As Manu struggles to find her place not only in the US after her family crumbles thanks to an ICE raid, but also in El Jardín, we get to meet a whole new world that’s just as flawed as ours—even with magic. Learning about this other world where Lobizones and brujas coexist ended up being very interesting for me because we can see the influence of strict Latin American gender roles. For example, only women are brujas and only men are lobizones, which ends up making Manu’s experience as a Lobizona be seen as something new and abnormal. Another example is the fact that brujas could only marry lobizones in order to keep the species going, making it hard for LGBTQ+ people to be themselves. Seeing all of this play out like it did helped me enjoy the story even more because we can see how these magical beings have it just as bad as normal humans.

In the end, Lobizona ends up being a captivating and fun story full of magic, romance, and struggles we can all either learn from or relate to. The pace of the story was great and the diverse set of characters we get to meet through the story were all great because you actually end up caring about them thanks to the way they all end up influencing Manu and her choices. The world-building was anything but info-dumps and learning about this other world and its society ends up being a fun and interesting experience for us readers. If you’re looking for a magical and gripping story with latinx characters that hits close to home in many ways, you might want to add Lobizona to your tbrs! Or if you’re looking for the Latin American version of Harry Potter you can add it too!

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If you enjoy magical realism, you will love Romina Garber's newest book Lobizona. I have seen this title around on bookstagram for a while and the cover is what really drew me in. I absolutely love the art style, but the title seemed really interesting also. I was delighted to find the naked book is just as beautiful as the sleeve -- plus, it glows in the dark!! 

Netgalley gifted me a free e-ARC of this title, which I am so grateful for! It allowed me to start reading it, which sucked me in after the first few pages. I got about halfway through on Kindle before deciding to buy the physical copy. For one, I wanted to support this author (I devoured her Zodiac series a few years ago!) and two, I ended up taking a lot of annotations which I wanted to keep. And I bounced back and forth between the e-book and the physical copy; the e-book is amazing for reading in bed, but the physical is better for daytime reading (and is less of a strain on my eyes, TBH.)

"We use magical realism in our daily lives too. Consider our superstitions. We are always willing magic into reality—that's our way."

I love that this book was stippled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and included an impressive amount of vocabulary in-context to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. As someone who is constantly trying to improve my Spanish, this is something I really appreciate seeing in new books. Garber does it well, allowing the reader to infer meaning from context clues without needing to use a translator. However, I can really appreciate having the translation dictionary available if I do need it, conveniently built into my e-reader. It saves a lot of time not having to click out of the book, and as a visual learner I enjoy seeing side-by-side translations because it really helps me understand spelling and pronunciation.

Another thing that I loved about this book was name-dropping of famous and works of literature written by Latin authors. Books like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Don Quijote are read by the main character; important and overlooked authors that more people should know about and read! This is such a great way to introduce readers to Latin classics, and I will be looking forward to more book recommendations in the next installment of this series!

I've been trying to read Gabriel García Márquez's masterpiece as slowly as possible so I can relish the writing, but it's so good that I'm already two-thirds of the way through.

The entire novel raises questions on important issues, like gender, sexuality, and the complications that arise for Latin-Americans who grow up caught between two cultures. In the same way that Manu and her Ma tread between being Argentinean Americans, Manu must find balance between her human and werewolf sides. In the world of Lunaris, gender roles still dominate the culture: girls are Brujas and boys are Lobizónes. Manu is one of the first female werewolf's and she has to overcome the "narrow and outdated approach to identity" that permeates Lunaris culture. Even the fast that her "irises are yellow suns and pupils are silver stars" contain contrasting symbolism and foreshadows the male-female dichotomy. 

"But if no one knows we exist, how can the system ever hope to accommodate us?"

Identity is a large theme in the novel: Manu wants to belong, but must, above all things, be true to herself. Manu feels "suffocated" by her mother's "invasive" gaze and feels as if she doesn't belong. "I don't fit into any of the groupings around me, and the things that make me different always seem to count against me." Though she is forced out of her comfort zone, the path she finds herself taking is essential to her growth and will lead her to finding who she truly is. But there is danger in being the first of her kind, and the outdated laws potentially endanger Manu's life. But as she finds friends whose beliefs align with her own she finds the comfort to "come out" as a female werewolf and is ultimately accepted and appreciated, despite her differences.

"You're a wolf, you part of the pack, period."

Though she is reserved at first, Manu believes she belongs in Lunaris. She makes friends with people who support her and defend her, and ultimately feels accepted once she reveals her secret. And not only do they accept her, they begin to follow her lead. When she challenges the binary norms and joins the team of boys, the desire for changes has an immediate ripple effect through her peers. 

"She has the same abilities as any lobizón here."

Femininity is another huge theme within this book. The first line of the book circles back to this theme, drawing a parallel between the lunar and the feminine: "I always bleed on the full moon." Chapter transitions are divided into moon phases. Water is used to represent emotions, which are constantly compared to the changing tides. I was so happy to see the normalizing of period talk. As a YA book that is a really important and underrepresented topic and I hope books start doing this more. When Manu feels "shameful or repulsive or wrong" about her body, be it her eyes or her menstruation, she is reminded that "it is only natural". Perla recognizes the power in Manu and gives her the permission to take pride in her body.

"Your eyes are your lightning mark--be proud of them."

By the end of the novel, the reader can work out themes of gender and friendship, but more than anything this novel is about listening to your gut and following your own path. Not only must the characters support and accept each other -- they must learn to accept and believe in themselves.

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Like werewolves? Patriarchy-smashing feminism? How about relevant real-world issues tied in with fantasy?

This has all that, plus some.

Manu is a teen girl left to decide between continuing to hide, the way she’s spent her entire life, or making a place for herself in a strange world while attempting to uncover the secrets of her parents’ past.

This story is told in four “phases”. Phase one feels very contemporary and not so much fantasy. This is where most of the talk of ICE and what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant comes in. Whether or not you can relate to being an illegal immigrant, who at some point or another hasn’t felt othered?

Phase two is where Manu really dips into the fantasy world and begins to search for an explanation for the stranger parts of her life and history. Phase three is all chaos and stress as Manu and her friends try to figure out how to protect Manu from yet another government that wants her not to exist. And Phase four is where all the fun plot twists and revelations happen.

I first want to talk about all the things I loved in this. Because there were many.

I thought it was so well-done how Manu’s life in Miami and her life in Septimus society mirrored each other in that she’s illegal in both, and has to hide and lie and pretend to be someone else. But with the exception that she breaks free of personal constraints and defines her identity in Septimus.

There is Spanish sprinkled all throughout the story, which is not a big detail, it’s just something I personally love to see. Anytime a book includes lines from a language other than English, I’m all for it. I feel it really added to the setting and characters as well.

The periods—*chefs kiss*—were phenomenal. I will always be stoked to see periods mentioned in a YA book. And it’s not just referenced once or twice, it’s described multiple times and those descriptions do not hold back. Is it asking for too much to expect other YA authors to acknowledge this as a very real part of peoples lives? Garber has really raised the bar here.

Seeing Manu make so many new friends—including a steamy love interest—was great to see. I was so worried when one of these friends, Cata, was introduced that she would be relegated to the tired mean girl trope, but I’m pleased to see the relationship that she and Manu have developed.

For as many great concepts as Garber has managed to fit in Lobizona, she also nailed one of the more basic parts of writing—and that is the writing style itself. A style that is, simply put, beautiful. It’s not flowery per se, but it does have a poetic leaning, which I personally loved.

The Septimus society itself is so interesting, and very reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This society is very centered on reproduction, so of course topics such as sex, gender, sexuality, etc. come up. I was waiting to see if this would address non-binary, gender-fluid, or transgender issues in a world so segregated by sex, and am glad to see it was briefly touched upon. The author is not trans, so it makes sense to me that Garber didn’t step too into that role because I think doing so may have risked misrepresentation.

For most readers, I think you’ll be able to see and appreciate how this topic is touched on without being explicitly stated. I can definitely see how non-binary, gender-fluid, or transgender readers may appreciate some of Manu’s struggles in this. Especially as this is largely about identity, and making a place for yourself where either one has already been made, but with limitations—or one simply does not exist. As well as how sexuality, sexual identity, and gender roles play into Septimus society—and how Manu and her friends decide to dismantle those outdated and conservative views.

One of my biggest thoughts while reading this was how great of a replacement it would be for all of the people who are deciding to ditch Harry Potter because there are so many similarities between the two. First off, Manu attends a magical school—the emphasis on nature at this school really spoke to my heart. Two, Jasmín, the woman who runs the school, is Umbridge-level awful. Septibol is a cool magical sport similar to soccer, and one Manu happens to kick ass at. There’s also a library at this school that Manu and her new friends spend some time in. This honestly couldn’t have been released at a better time.

My few complaints really come down to small details.

One, I found a few of the minor characters to be difficult to distinguish. Even now, having finished the book, there are a couple of her teammates I can’t identify without looking at my notes.

Two, Manu’s confrontation with a certain character (trying to keep this spoiler-free) felt anticlimactic given how important this potential confrontation was throughout the book. This was very close to the end, so I imagine it was just rushed to fit all the last-minute conclusions in. It also got a bit sappy after, which took of me out of the story given how these moments contrasted with the rest of the story leading up to this point.

And while this is less of a complaint with the story and more to do with myself, I called quite a few of the twists earlier on in the story. That said, there was a rather large plot twist I did not see coming—and I’m honestly so happy I didn’t because it was such a good one.

I’m mentioning these incredibly minor flaws for the sake of the review and not because they at all dampened my enjoyment of Lobizona. I absolutely loved this, highly recommend it, and will be continuing with the series when the sequel is released—though I’m all but dying to know what happens next now.

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Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Lobizona

Author: Romina Garber

Book Series: Wolves of No World Book 1

Diversity: Argentina characters, lesbian couple

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For...: Werewolves, witches, other planets, Argentinian characters And lore

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 400

Recommended Age: 16+ (sexual content, drugging, drugs mentioned, rape mention)

Synopsis: Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past--a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it's her entire existence.

Review: Overall, I thought the book was amazing. I loved the mythology and lore of Lobizones and Brujas (werewolves and witches basically). I liked how the author intermingled issues of ICE into this story and also sexism. The book had a well done story arc and plot and I loved the world building. Other things of note are that the book addresses sexism and homophobia and the menstrual cycle is important to the storyline.

However, I did think the pacing was a bit too fast for me and I think the book had a lot of characters that weren't fully developed.

Verdict: Recommended read! I can't wait for the next one!!

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