Cover Image: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Netgalley and Disney Publishing for the advance Kindle copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this science fiction/fantasy adventure. Paola has never believed much of what she sees as her mother’s superstitions; she prefers to rely on science. She and her friends have always been warned not to venture to the Gila River in their town, but they think that is because of drowning/kidnapping dangers, not the supernatural. When their friend Emma disappears instead of meeting them at the river too look at stars, Pao and Dante think that maybe there is something to the supernatural claims. They find themselves in a rift between worlds, and have unlikely tools that may save both the living and those in this dark world. Hand to Rick Riordan fans. It is out 8.4.20!
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Another good series from the Rick Riordan Presents Imprint. I really enjoyed this one although I was expecting it to be a bit creepier given the source mythology.

The story is told from Paola’s point of view and she was such a great character. She is typical 12 year old with all the complexities that entails. She is both brave and smart, but often doubts herself and her abilities. She is also confused by her feelings for Dante, who has been a long time friend, but that friendship seems to be on the cusp or becoming something more. I also really liked that she was always trying to find some sort of scientific explanation for all of the weird stuff going on around her. But she does also come to accept that some things just can’t be explained.

Dante is also a great character, and I would really like to hear part of the story from his point of view. He is a little bit of a jock, and maybe doesn’t catch on to what is going on as quickly as Pao does, but he is totally willing to do what needs to get done. He is a bit more willing to except all of the supernatural stuff going on more quickly than Pao, but he does have that hero thing going for him, which was awesome.

The story follows the same formula as the others in this imprint, but it continues to be one that works. I enjoyed learning about the La Llorona myth and some of the mythological creatures from this culture. The small town setting in Texas was well done, as was the culture of racism that is pervasive in this time. I would have liked a little bit more of a creepiness factor through out the whole story, but the final show down was well done and scary at times.

The writing was a little bit chaotic and not as smooth as it could be. I kept thinking that I missed something in the narrative and had to go back to see if I could find out what I missed, but I rarely did. This could be because this is an ARC and I am never sure how much more editing will be done before final publication, so hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and it is a nice addition to this imprint. I enjoyed the mythology and the characters and look forward to their next adventure.
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At the beginning of the story we meet Pao Santiago and her friends Emma and  Dante. Pao is logical and science obsessed. She lives with her mom who is very much into superstitions and Emma, being the logical person she is,  does not believe in the things that her mother does. Emma and Dante live in the same apartment complex that can't seem to keep residents. They live near the Gila River, a place they are not allowed to go near. There have been kid who have gone missing in the past and now one of Pao's friends has fallen victim and it is up to her to save them. With some unexpected help she sets off on an adventure that will change her life. 

I enjoy the adventures into different culture's folk tales, I've read quiet a few of the Rick Riordan Presents books and have enjoyed all of them. I wanted to love this book, but I had some. I do love Tehlor Mejia's characters. Pao is brave, strong, and smart. I thought the book started off strong but lost something in the middle. Trying to follow all of the plot points it gets a little mucky. I think that if the action in the middle of the book was reworked to make it easier to follow it would be much better.

 I thought it was great that Pao finally got her dog though, and its breed will make him useful as it seems Pao's journey with otherworldly beings doesn't seem to be over.
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I really enjoyed this book. I went into it expecting more of a Percy Jackson vibe since it is from Rick Riordan presents, but it was different. Paola isn't your typical hero, she's more angsty and selfish in her reasons for saving the day, but no less real. She struggles with the intersection of science and faith, which I think makes her more realistic and made it easier for me to identify with her. I loved the take on traditional Mexican folklore, and it didn't shy away from discussing some of the difficulties Latinx kids face. There were some parts that were a little confusing to me when there was talk of different dimensions, but overall a great fantasy story!
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The story of Paola Santiago, a young teenage Latina, along with her friends Dante, a Latino and a privileged white friend, Emma is a quest into the legends told to her by her mother since she was a little girl. Pao is certain that science can explain anything, and doesn't believe the stories she has heard until faced with the characters in a life and death adventure. The author Tehlor Kay Mejia has created Pao as a strong young woman who will not give up on her friends. The length of this narrative is not for the reluctant, but will be sure to engage readers who love the stuff of legends and fantasy.
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Paola Santiago is nothing if not logical.  Which is why she hates her mother's superstitious nature and stories of ghosts.  Especially repugnant to her is the story of La Llorona, the wailing ghost who waits to drag children into the Gila River near their home.  Pao and her friends have been forbidden from getting close to the river, even though it is the best spot for stargazing and general hanging out.  The warnings don't stop the trio though- after all, they know how to be safe.  

Planning to meet to get in some quality telescope time, Paola and Dante wait for Emma to arrive for quite awhile past their scheduled time before calling her parents to find out where she may be.  He disappearance kicks off an epic adventure for Paola and Dante- one they couldn't have seen coming, even with all of the ghost stories they've hear all their lives.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I really appreciate the Rick Riordan Presents series which features mythology from several different cultures.  In Mejia's work, we are introduced to La Llorona and other Mexican folklore.   Even without existing schema, I was easily able to follow the story and understand the supersitions and folklore components.  

The characters are engaging, though maybe a smidge flat.   I also guessed some key details fairly early on, but was also surprised a few times.  I highly recommend this for middle grade and older readers.
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Paola Santiago and her Friends Dante and Emma are heading into 7th grade in the fall and things are changing. Dante recently joined the popular soccer team and the girls wonder if he's starting to be embarrassed by them. But, right now it's summertime and the three of them have fallen back into an easy routine. 

One evening they are supposed to meet down by the river to check out the stars through Emma's telescope. When Emma doesn't show up, Pao and Dante aren't sure what to do. Emma is never late, but they hesitate because they aren't supposed to be by the river - a girl drowned in the river last year so they have been forbidden to hang out there. When they call Emma's parents to check on her, Emma's parents are frantic and they all head to the police station. The author sneaks in (not so subtly)  a legitimate political statement about how the police treat "brown" people versus Emma's white parents. This is mentioned a couple times, but the reader isn't beaten over the head with it. When the authorities won't take them seriously, Pao and Dante decide they have to go after their friend.

While there's no "gods hooking up with mortals" like in several of the other Rick Riordan presents series, and which as a mom I appreciate, this story is still rooted in mythology. This time it's with a Mexican-American focus on things like La Llorona and chupacabras. I didn't feel like the magic was very well explained, but that leaves room for a sequel. Entertaining and fun, this one is recommended!

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Paola Santiago and the River of Tears is a charming middle grade full of heart. Starring Paola, a space obsessed girl, it's a story of friendship, first crushes, and jealousy. It's also a story about the clash between religion and science and between issues of prejudice and privilege. I love STEM girls so much and seeing Paola was wonderful as she deals with new experiences, betrayal, and family conflict.

While Paola's entire story is a non-stop action story about missing children, magical rivers, and mystical creatures, it's also a story about opening our mind. We can be so sure the ground we stand on is flat, and then one day we realize it's been spinning all along. Science and religion, our belief in the stars - infinitesimal points of light - and the legends in the shadows. I was expecting a world full of magic and adventure, but what captivated me was Paola's story mixing adventure and her real life.
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This adventurous tale embraces Mexican folklore, friendship, family and personal feats sure to build a well defined character for the protagonist, Paola.
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Paola's scientific mind has never had any room for her mom's superstitions and stories.  But when her best friend goes missing near the "haunted" river Paola begins to question everything.  Soon she and her other friend find themselves deep in a fight against all sorts of creatures.  Can Paola find Emma and close the rift before it's too late.
I am thrilled with Rick Riordan's continuing efforts to get books out there in folklore of other countries and cultures.  This Mexican inspired story was a lot of fun.
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Super scientific 12-year-old Paola Santiago has always been told to stay away from the Gila River and warned by her superstitious mother about the legend of La Llorona (the wailing ghost woman who searches the banks of the river for children to drown). But Pao is a scientist through and through and knows there are quite reasonable explanations for the many drownings that have taken place in the Gila over the years. Disgusted with her mother’s humiliating superstitions, Pao and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, decide to hang out near the river one night since it’s the best stargazing spot. But Emma never shows up. When the police refuse to listen to Pao and Dante, the two kids are thrust into the middle of a mystery that will overturn everything Pao has ever believed to be true. To save Emma, Pao must enter the world of her nightmares and face both the monsters that threaten her life and the monsters within herself.

Tehlor Kay Mejia has crafted a simultaneously chilling and heartwarming story that fits perfectly into the Rick Riordan Presents universe. Pao is a wonderful heroine: feisty, brave, and immensely loyal. She is aware of her faults and is constantly trying to become a better person. The friendships and relationships between the characters are strong, and the depictions of tensions that can arise between friends in that terrifying time known as middle school are spot on. The Mexican-American mythology was so much fun to learn about through Pao’s eyes, and when things started getting magical, I enjoyed the descriptions and dialogue that kept me from becoming lost or confused. As Pao struggles to understand her worth, readers will be able to identify and sympathize with themes of family hardship, forgiveness, and what being a hero truly means. Fans of ghost stories, fantasy, and magic will love this middle-grade adventure.

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
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Oh. My. Goodness. I can't even begin to explain how much I loved this book!! Paola is such a fun protagonist; she doesn't believe in no stinking ghosts, thank you very much! Science for the win! Of course, with a Rick Riordan Presents book, there are absolutely supernatural things occurring and seeing Pao try to balance her belief in science and her new understanding that mythical creatures exist is so much fun. I love that Mejia didn't shy away from ICE or racism or not-so-great family connections. It made the book so much more believable and can inspire important conversations with kids.
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I struggled on writing this review. As an adult, I loved this book. I would absolutely share it with my own children. My husband is from Mexico, so my kids have grown up hearing stories such as La Llorona from their abuelita.. I was thrilled to find a book that  explores Latinx culture and folklore so that I can familiarize my children (and myself) with the stories my husband was raised on.  I adored the main character Paola, and her love for science and logic. I thought it was wonderful that Paola got to learn that logic and faith are equally important.  The uncomfortable but important social issues of racial profiling, systemic racism,  immigration were handled well. 

I think this would be a wonderful book for families to read together because there is a lot of room for open discussion on the topics mentioned above.. The only thing I struggled with was whether I could recommend this book without question to parents or teachers of young readers. There is talk about children getting abducted and murdered. This wouldn't stop me from giving the book to my own children, but it may be important to mention for other parents/teachers. It definitely had a creepy factor to it which again, I loved and my own children would love, but may not be enjoyable for all young readers. 

I'm rating the book 5 stars because the writing is superb and the story is engaging, educational but yet still fun and enjoyable. I decided not to take off a star for the things mentioned because those didn't hinder my own enjoyment of the book, and I would still love to purchase a copy to share with my own children and for several young readers in our family. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and The Disney Book Group for the ARC of Paola Santiago and the River of Tears in exchange for my honest review.
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Paola Santiago loves science. Creating and testing hypotheses, conducting experiments, seeking rational and logical explanations for why things happen. Which is why it frustrates her that her mother relies on tinctures, tarot cards, and candles as solutions to their problems. Pao may not take her mother's superstitions and stories seriously, but she does listen to one thing her mother always tells her: Don't go near the Gila River. After all, last year a girl supposedly drowned in the river, her body never found. But things change when Pao's best friend goes missing... and Pao knows that she didn't drown, and can be rescued. Suddenly, Pao's world changes; logic has failed her, nothing makes sense, and legends are coming to life. To include one of the most terrifying legends of all time.

The infamous La Llorona....

An amazing addition to the Rick Riordan Presents line-up, and an action-packed middle grade debut for Mejia, "Paola Santiago and the River of Tears" is a fantastic exploration of Latinx culture and folklore, beautifully (and, in many ways, grotesquely) brought to life. Paola is a fierce protagonist, with a lot to learn about being a hero and understanding herself, and that sometimes faith is more important than facts.
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Ooof. This is a tough one for me to review. (And, can I just say, that up until the very end, it was looking like a 2-star review, because if you kill a dog -- or, in this case, a dog-like, lizard beast -- I automatically deduct a full star. I don't play like that. But, Mejia came through in the end -- but it was bit like the end of Frozen, where Sven is underwater for just a *beat* too long, before he breaks through the surface of the water. It's like that.)

There were times I struggled with this book -- as in, I fell asleep multiple times while reading it, so I lost the thread of the plot a few times. 

I don't think that's necessarily a knock on Mejia's writing...these are COVID times, after all, and #quarantinelife has been especially draining lately. 

That being said...I think this book succeeds, as it's intended to, as a middle grade book. But I'm not sure it works for me. I can see this being a great family-read book: the kind where the entire family reads together before bedtime, a chapter being read aloud each night. 

✔︎ -- Paoloa is a flawed protagonist -- she's impulsive, has a temper, is snarky, and petty -- and I think that's refreshing for a middle-grade audience. Especially since her flaws are qualities she seems to be aware of and often reflects on them, making the lessons a little more explicit. She's also a curious, smart, inquisitive girl -- also *super* important for a middle-grade audience -- who loves science. Refreshing, and sorely needed, as this is about the age girls often lose interest in STEM as its "not cool." 
✔︎ -- I love that this story draws on Mexican folklore and mythology. I think Anna-Marie McLemore is a goddess and I just want to reread her books over and over again, losing myself in the worlds she creates. Mejia is drawing from the same traditions, and I think that's important in terms of #weneeddiversebooks.
✔︎ -- I thought Mejia did a great job weaving in timely social issues in a way that was honest, didn't shy away from the discomfort of it, and also set it up to open the conversation between kids and adults. Things like racial profiling, systemic racism,  immigration were all handled deftly. 
✔︎ -- No love triangle! 

So, yeah. I think this book works as a middle-grade novel, and I could see myself reading it with my kids in the future. But I don't think this is a book that I would revisit on my own...

✘ -- The pacing was *waaay* off for me. For example: Paola leaves the camp for the climactic battle around ~60% of the way through the book. (I read it on my Kindle, so didn't have page numbers.) The next 40% is basically the climactic fight, and IDK, but ~40% or so, is just too long. 
Especially when 2-3 chapters are basically Paola walking around the cactus field following a twisty beam of light. It was like the Trio in Deathly Hallows all over again.
There were moments when the plot just stalled for me -- the same thing happened over and over again. Like Paola following the twisty light, or Pao disagreeing with Ondina. It felt like there was a lot of "No! You're wrong!" until finally someone else was like, "You're right! I'll do it!" 
✘ -- There were a lot of threads to follow -- made harder by the fact that they just kept popping up without a seeming connection to what came before. We went from folklore stories, to chanclas and the Dreamer, to Pao as the Chosen One, to an underwater abandoned sea palace, to mysterious glowing pearl of was a lot. 
✘ -- This may be a bit contradictory, but as much as I appreciated that Pao was a flawed character (which, again, I think is great for middle-grade age girls to see and understand) there were times when she was...a bit much. Much was made over the "darkness" in her, and how she thought she was "wicked," and...I just didn't see that. Was she perfect? No. But her flaws were human and fallible -- and nothing too serious. Was she annoying at times? A little bit. But she wasn't evil and that just felt like too melodramatic of a leap. 
✘ -- I get that Mejia, and Pao, were going for a girl-power vibe. And for the most part, it was fine. But one of the things that bugs me about deliberately feminist stories is when they swing too wide in the other direction: like, the females are raised up at the expense of the male characters. And here, it seemed like most of the male characters kinda got thrown under the bus. Both of the father figures left their families; Dante, even though he was the love interest, was (from Pao's POV, at least) spending time with his soccer friends and flopping his hair and while he was loyal to Pao (and Emma), he was also impulsive and had a hero complex. And poor Franco was the pretty boy who woefully misjudged La Llorona and then "died" for it, because of his pride. They weren't terrible, per se, but there wasn't a lot to redeem them either, and even Dante never felt like a fully realized character. 
✘ -- Finally, there's something about the way the mother/daughter relationships were portrayed that didn't sit well with me...and I can't quite put my finger on it. The La Llorona story is a fascinating one but the Evil Mother figure trying to advance her own daughter's cause at the expense of others felt a little too...fairy-tale stepmother to me. Maybe because I didn't fully understand her goal -- didn't understand what she was trying to achieve for Ondina -- but her "evil motivations" also felt fairly flat, and I was just a little disappointed. 
Also, I think after all that build-up -- with Pao realizing her mother was right, with her seeing the relationship between La Llorona and Ondina -- I really wanted some sort of cathartic scene with her and her mother...but we never got it. 
I think there's going to be a Book #2...but I said this in my review of The Guinevere Deception: I don't find it effective if an author deliberately withholds answers/resolution for subsequent books.
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I really, really enjoyed this new title in the Rick Riordan Presents line. Pao is a stubborn, fierce, and wonderful heroine who just wants to save her friends and other people she meets along the way. She's not afraid of doing what's right even when it's hard. So easily root-able, and the story was funny, atmospheric, and super cute. Can't wait for the sequel!

Rating: 3.5 stars
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I am wildly in love with these Rick Riordan presents books! Paola Santiago is a wonderful hero, and I love that she is a strong female character; a great role model for young readers. She is practical, smart, adventurous, but she makes mistakes, too. Her world is that of diversity; she feels equally appalled and proud of her Hispanic heritage. Her mother is too "woowoo" and too quirky for Pao - but she loves her at the same time. Pao is a scientist and is practical in nature, and she wishes her life was more orderly and organized. All of her life she's heard tales of La Llorona, the ghostly woman who is rumored to haunt the banks of the nearby Gila River, luring unsuspecting children into it's murky depths. Tragedy strikes close to home when her dear friend Emma disappears, and Pao and her best friend Dante set off on a fantastical adventure to discover the truth. 

These stories give children a modern view on tales from many diverse heritages. Like Percy Jackson, Sal & Gabi, Tristan Strong, Ahru Shah, and many others, Rick Riordan presents books allow children to explore a reading adventure filled with mythology and local legend, helping them to appreciate tales of a variety of their own and other cultures. Paola Santiago is a wonderful character....and this book is the first in a series!
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This book has a great female lead with a folktale twist. Pao  and her two friends embody the experiences of preteens, Friendship is paramount and parents (and generally all adults) are too much! When Emma disappears, Pao and Dante have an adventure that’s based in ghost stories and folktales from Mexico. Supernatural threats add just the right amount of tension for this middle grades book.
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Thanks to Disney Publishing Worldwide and NetGalley for this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears is about Paola Santiago, a young scientist with a superstitious mom and two best friends. When her friend Emma goes missing near the Gila river, the place her mother always warned her about, Pao-as her friends call her-is determined to find her. This leads her right into the middle of a war between the corrupted rift and the children that defend Paola’s home town, Silver Springs.

Paola Santiago was an amazing book that I loved a LOT. It has something for everyone. Mystery, comedy, romance, action. This book was a really good page turner that is easily my favorite Rick Riordan Presents book. And I’ve read them all. The characters were funny, and they were one of my favorite parts of the book. Another thing I loved was how descriptive the author was. It was the perfect amount, descriptive enough so that I could form a good picture in my head, but not too descriptive so that the story moves along too slowly. Tehlor Kay Mejia really put the images of the characters and events deep inside my brain.

I had almost no problems with the book. Though the entire book was awesome, the ending angered me, since the book built up a perfect event in my head, but then it never happened, and I can only hope it comes in the second book. This is a very good technique for keeping a reader hooked, so I can’t bad-mouth it too much. My other problem is that a lot of the images were a little too graphic and the stories a little too creepy. I know that this is necessary for the story, but I couldn’t help but think that this would scare a few younger readers. It was still a really great book, but that is an important warning to any reader.

But, overall, Tehlor Kay Mejia perfectly captures the mind of a twelve-year-old in this interesting take of the legend of La Lorna.
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Unlike other books that are based on mythology or stories from a particular culture, this one just didn’t catch my attention. It seemed like new things were popping up, & they weren’t characters or situations I could easily picture or imagine. It was a decent read but not for me. Full review on Goodreads.
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