Cover Image: Never Look Back

Never Look Back

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Seventeen-year-old Pheus is ready for a Bronx summer with his dad, his guitar, and his friends. He’s not ready to commit to anyone or anything unless fun is involved. Nicknamed “El Nuevo Nene de la Bachata” due to his mad skills on the guitar and his singing, Pheus is ready for a great summer.

Eury’s father left when she was just a little girl, but Ato understood her despair. As her only friend they spent a lot of time together, but he wanted more from her. After the devastation of their home by Hurricane Maria, she and her mom moved to Florida. Though Ato followed her from Puerto Rico, fear of him and what he would do next began to change her behavior. No one would believe she was seeing a spirit and, since her mom didn’t believe in therapists, Eury was sent to visit her aunt and regroup.

Pheus never expected to meet someone like Eury. Hopeless against Ato’s tormenting spirit Eury felt relief when she met Pheus. Together their love enables them to climb mountains and forge seas of chaos and uncertainty.

As a Puerto Rican Latina and New Yorker, I could hear the music, feel the beat, and understand the Spanish phrases that flowed throughout Pheus and Eury’s stories. Publicity material calls it a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice but, since I don’t have familiarity with that myth, I can’t tell whether or not it matches. I CAN tell you I believe it should be in the running for a 2021 Pura Belpré award – especially now that the judging panel has been expanded to include YALSA. Listen in at 44 min. 55 sec. to hear the announcement made at the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards. Remember that you read it here first!

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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I honestly wasn't sure what I would think coming into this book, but I absolutely enjoyed reading it. Never Look Back is an #ownvoices modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and it is so well done. It's not a common retelling, which makes it all the more intriguing, and it's really cool to see how Rivera reimagined this love story. I love all of the sweet, musical, romantic moments, but really I love how this book focuses on these two characters of Pheus and Eury growing, and becoming better versions of themselves as they struggle to learn how to fight against a monster that shouldn't be real. I love the culture that is infused throughout this book, and while it felt a bit too slang heavy for my taste (I nearly threw up when the word "wifey" was used), I loved the infusion of Spanish and the code-switching of these characters. I loved Eury's recollections of Puerto Rico, and the ways the hurricane has impacted her sense of home. I also loved the magical elements that created moments of tension and suspense. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
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Lilliam Rivera writes another amazing book. Based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Pheus and Eury met one summer in the Bronx. Eury has suffered PTSD as a result of Hurricane Maria destroying her home in Puerto Rico, but she is also haunted by a spirit, Ato, who followed her from Puerto Rico to Florida to the Bronx. A modem retelling of the Greek myth that is captivating, suspenseful, and romantic.
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"Never Look Back" has a beautiful cover and synopsis. Orpheus and Eurydice were two characters I had never read about when I was picking up different Greek myth books. Pheus and Eury are loveable characters! I wish Rivera could have gone a little bit deeper and maybe strayed a bit from the ridge path of character development she put them on. The romance was sweet, but it felt a bit rushed and insta-love for my taste. However, I understand it was for the sake of the plot and to drive things forward. Rivera is very descriptive, and the images she built in mind, especially when Pheus was in El Inframundo were divine. If you knew the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice then you know how the story goes, the ending was sweet but a tad lacklustre. Eury began to realize that she couldn't rely on people to help support her mentally, and she needed to figure things out on her own, which was nice, but it felt like a sudden revelation.
All in all, I wish we could have gone deeper into the characters and story because it seemed too surface level. "Never Look Back" moved too slow and then the end was like we were sprinting to the finish line. I wanted better pacing. I wouldn't mind picking up another book by Lilliam Rivera because "Never Look Back" was interesting but I wanted a little more.
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I love the way Lilliam Rivera writes! The book was beautifully written and I love the way the characters were developed.
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I love magical realism, especially when it blends the mythology with the modern day.  This new young adult novel by author Lilliam Rivera is a well-told take on the Greek myth “Orpheus and Eurydice,” blended with Caribbean folklore and Latin music. 

Pheus is our bachata singing musical hero.  He is spending the summer in the Bronx living with his dad just like he does every year.  He is grounded and also has some strong dreams about making it big in music.  He meets Eury through her cousin.  Eury is from Puerto Rico and endured Hurricane Maria by sheltering in her home’s bathtub with her mom.  The experience has damaged her but she was also scarred before that when her father left the family when she was young.  

That’s when she started to see Ato.  At first, Ato seemed like a useful imaginary friend helping her through the loss of her dad but Eury eventually begins to realize that Ato is obsessed with her and won’t leave her alone.  She’s come to the Bronx in the hopes that it is far enough away from Puerto Rico to put Ato behind. 

Pheus meets Eury and is definitely drawn to her even as he realizes that her problems run deep.  Is it mental illness or is she truly haunted by a spirit from the island?  

There’s a point where the novel turns into an action packed adventure story as Pheus has to fight the spirits for the life of Eury. Who knew that the Bronx had so many connections to the Underworld? That certainly keeps the story rushing towards the conclusion.  

Looking forward to reading Lilliam Rivera’s two other young adult novels after enjoying this one.
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Wow! Where do I even start with Never Look Back?!? Lilliam Rivera is an amazing author, I loved her book "The Education of Margot Sanchez" and this book has become another hit! She was able to intricately weave mental health issues in youth, the difficulties of coping with trauma; the stigma of seeking professional help over faith and the necessity of community, throughout the book beautifully. I even love the fact of connecting Greek mythology to this contemporary story! Whew! Lilliam Rivera went in on this book and I can't wait till the rest of the world reads it! LOVE IT!!
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I don’t even have the words to express my love for this beautiful, poignant and heart wrenching retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Bronx with two young lovers who are caught between two worlds. Eury is a survivor of the Hurricane that destroyed her home and island of Puerto Rico, now displaced and missing her home she believes that she caused the Hurricane by displeasing her spirit “friend” Ato. Pheus has a gift for music, music he has used to manipulate people’s emotions, especially women. These two young people have a connection but will it be enough to bridge the underworld. Through this ancient story the author examines issues of racism, colorism, sexism and the heartbreaking situation of the island of Puerto Rico so quickly forgotten by the rest of the country. The music of Antony Santos, Romeo Santos and many others help we’ve this tale that spans from the Bronx to the underworld to Puerto Rico And back. This book is as lyrical as the story and I can not wait to share it with my students!
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I have an exciting book review to share with you today. Please note: I received a digital ARC of this book (via NetGalley) from its publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review. 

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera is a modern Latinx retelling of the Orpheaus and Eurydice myth. This was such an enjoyable read and one that I never knew I needed! I love this absolute unique take on the tragic myth with diverse characters. Never Look Back is set mostly in The Bronx, New York with additional scenes set in Puerto Rico. Being a Puerto Rican who was born and raised in the Bronx, I can tell you this book felt so authentic. From buying coquitos from a street vendor, to shopping on Fordham Road, to hanging at Orchard Beach. This is a love letter to the island of Puerto Rico, its resilient people, and an ode to growing up Latinx in the Bronx. Never look Back is a coming of age urban epic fantasy all mixed into one! 

Lilliam Rivera has created an incredibly detailed and rich world with a complex magical system in an urban setting. Her descriptions are so vivid I can picture each location and creature. Never Look Back has moments of action wrapped in the mystical, But it is more than that, it is also an extremely well written character driven story. I experienced moments of joy, anguish, and grief with our two main protagonists Eury and Pheus. This is a love story but it is also a precautionary tale on being patient, keeping your faith, and believing in yourself. We are introduced to a diverse cast of secondary characters as this tale unfolds and I wish we learned more about some of them, especially Pheus' father and Ato. Having more background information on them would have added more depth to the fantasy aspect of the story. All in all this is a well developed thought out and unique story!

If you are a fan of slow burn fantasies, urban settings, magic, and complicated relationships then go read this book! This gem published by Bloomsbury YA is available for pre-order from all major booksellers and set to release September 1, 2020. I give Never Look Back 4 out of 5 gems. I cannot wait for this book to be out in the universe for all to read! Happy Reading!
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Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria--and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there's this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.- Goodreads

This is a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus. If you don't exactly remember here the quick snapshot if this man goes to the underworld to save the woman he loves and has to walk back above without looking back to her. If he looks back, she stays in the underworld.

I love the spin Rivera puts on this mythology. Pheus is what makes this book. He has so much life and personality. Eury is sad and depressing. She has every right to be as there is a demon trying to take her to the underworld but calling it like it is, Pheus is what brings the life, the color, the interest to this story. He as well as the plot is written very well.

The story is told through both of their point of views, which shows the difference in personality between the two. Other than my love of Pheus what I loved was the rich environment. I'm from New York, Harlem & Long Island specifically and to see the Bronx so clearly, to hear the train as Rivera describes it is freaking amazing. The writing in this book is done extremely well. 

There is a low build up in the novel but it is worth it. What I would have liked to see more is the family history of Pheus and Eury. Its mentioned and pretty much brushed over at the end. I would have liked to see more of that family connection and history since he is used as a foundation towards the end of the book. 

The imagery in the novel is fantastic. When it starts getting to the climax/the end of the book it is thick and rich. However, I do feel the ending was not as strong as it could have been and a bit rushed but it did give me a satisfied feeling. 

The culture displayed in this novel, being Dominican/Black and Puerto Rican could have been/should have been add more beyond the music references. Again, this goes back to family history. Its mentioned but doesn't play a whole lot of significance until the end of the novel. 

Overall, this was a fantastic read. I'm a sucker for mythology and this retelling was done really well. 

4 Pickles
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Review will be available on my blog, The Reading Fairy on 8/10/2020
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars!
TW: Divorce, Absentee Parent, PTSD, animal death, Micro-Aggression racism, violence, panic attack 
Rep: Latinx Cast and Afro-Latinx MCs

Disclaimer: I recieved an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion. 

"Relationships are finite. Every single one of them. It's what I've learned. I have to safeguard my heart. Protect this body from those who want to harm it. Even Pheus."

Lilliam Rivera has always been an author that I wanted to try and know more about her work. I only read her debut novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez, and that was merely okay. I didn't hesitate to request this book-mostly because I'm having really good luck with a certain publisher, and Rivera's work always fascinated due to Rae's fantastic recommendation last year!

Unfortunately, I do want to mention this, because it does affect my opinion. My ARC copy was missing the first pages of some chapters, so a lot of times especially the middle and the end with Eury's chapters.  It kept pulling me out of the story, because every time I turn the page, it would start mid-sentence. I'll check out the final copy of this book when it gets released, and hopefully my library opens back up (It's April when I'm writing this, and hopefully my library is open when this comes out.)

Never Look Back follows the Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Unfortunately, I do not know much about Orpheus and Eurydice story; minus that it is tragic like all Greek stories. Perhaps I should actually look it up? Nah, too much work. So I did finally look it up and it really did follow the story closely while changing some of the things, but I'm really happy we got a Afro-Latinx Retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice, because we seriously need more of these Greek retellings with POC or everything as POC.

I really loved the writing. I wasn't sure whether I was going to like it, but it really brought this book to life. I loved the descriptions, culture, and pieces of religion and how I could really feel Pheus's love for music because we need more music players in YA in general and I'm a huge fan of music. I did have a small problem with some places of the writing, but because those chapters were missing it didn't help too much.

I do feel like there were quite a few plot-holes that I really wished that was addressed more in this book specifically Ato. What was his deal? Why did he chose to haunt Eury besides that she was already vulnerable after her father left? There's so many questions I have to his character that I can't help, but feel a tadbit disappointed because it didn't seem fully developed. 

I do feel like there were certain things that did feel rush especially the romance. I loved the romance on how it came to be with Eury and Pheus especially when Pheus had to rescue her from the Underworld. It was really sweet towards the end-but I still can't help but feel like it was a little insta-lovey, and how there could have been a little more development before they fell in love.

I really feel like I connected with the characters. I was so invested with them that I couldn't believe this book ended so quickly. I'll just gladly take a short story with these characters because I need more content. Also, I think Rivera might become one of my favorite authors so who knows, but I seriously love that cover.

Eury: I liked her character quite a bit. I do feel like she should have been a little more developed in some places, but I really like how her faith and religion was so well-explored while remaining haunted by her past on Hurricane Maria, while trying to move on. I think it was really beautiful and I couldn't help but love her.

Pheus: He was really iffy especially towards his attitude towards women in particular. He's a man who will treat the woman right, but it's how he sometimes referred to them as his which put a bad taste to my mouth. I also liked how he remained protective with Eury and wanted to help put a smile on her face, while having a passion for music.
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There were elements of this story I enjoyed. I really like Pheus' dad, I thought he was a strong and well representative father in the story which is always nice to see, especially in a story following characters of color. I also really enjoyed Eury's perspective. I found her narration to be soothing and I enjoyed how religious she was as well. 

Unfortunately, there were far more things in this story that I disliked than what I liked. It was uncomfortable to me how Pheus described women in the beginning of the story. He seems like the kind of man to "respect" women but still think that whatever girl he's seeing is "his" or "belongs to him". Also, the connection between Eury and Pheus was incredibly rushed. Considering that this story takes place over around two weeks, it seems not only unlikely but hard to believe that they fell in love with each other within less than 14 days. 

I also would've preferred more backstory to Ato's character and why he picked Eury to haunt? I would've liked for the author to dig deeper into that aspect of Ato and really add depth to plot in that way. 

I'm curious to see what others will think when they read this story, but for me it was a big miss.
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As someone who loves mythology and any sort of retelling, this book jumped out at me immediately. It tells the story of two teens, Eury and Pheus, living in the Bronx. After Eury's home is destroyed during Hurricane Maria, she ends up staying with her aunt and uncle in the Bronx while she recovers from what her mother assumes to be a mental breakdown; in reality, though, she is being haunted by Ato, a spirit of death. There, she meets Pheus, a talented musician who quickly falls for her. As the pair get to know one another and begin to unravel the mystery of Ato's presence, disaster strikes again, and the two must figure out how to overcome the unimaginable.

This was a charming book that I thought handled the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice very well, and, with the modern twist, made it into a story that the audience will fall in love with. The plot was compelling and had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire read. I really enjoyed the family relationships that the author featured, as I think that they help to really flesh out the two main characters. Pheus and his dad had such an interesting dynamic, and Eury and Penelope's love for one another was incredibly heartwarming. Eury and Pheus were lovely together, and their characters meshed well, although I would have loved to have seen more scenes with just the two of them getting to know one another. I think that seeing them interact with one another a bit more would have really driven home the later plot points of the novel and made the actions feel more believable. 

While I cannot speak directly on the quality of the representation in this book, as I am not a member of any of the communities featured, I loved the diversity in this book. Eury's POV in particular left me thinking about the struggles faced by Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria even after I was done reading. Getting a deeper look into the grief and trauma experienced by those affected was really eye-opening to me, especially seeing it through the eyes of someone so young. 

All in all, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The integration of myth and religion into such a contemporary setting is such a wonderful concept, and it is executed quite effectively. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a diverse urban fantasy, or to anyone looking for a sweet and fun myth retelling.
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this book will go down as one of my favorite releases from 2020. it is important, but it is also necessary. not often do we see ourselves in the spotlight, so from a puerto rican girl, i thank you. so much.
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Lilliam Rivera is an author that I've been meaning to read for years now and I'm so glad I finally took a chance on this book. It was SO GOOD. The writing, the imagery, the characters...everything about this was just so beautiful and I enjoyed it so much. 

When I heard that this was a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice I had to pause and actually look up the myth because the only thing I knew about Greek myths is that they always end tragically. And this myth is no different. But I do like how Lilliam took this myth and made it more modern, not to mention incorporated religion and Dominican culture. 

I especially loved Eury who may come across as weak to many but she does a lot of growing in this book and honestly, it's ok to be scared and not know what to do. She is a teenager, they both are and I loved how this book emphasizes that. They're not going to always know the right thing to do, they're going to make mistakes and that's ok. It should be expected. Orpheus is a very likable character as well and I loved his relationship with his father. 

The reason for 4 stars and not 5 is that I wish there was more development of the romance and I wish there was an epilogue. The romance was definitely sweet but it didn't feel as strong and concrete as I wished it would be. It felt a little insta-lovey and while I do understand how it works in context of the Greek myth, the fact that this book takes place over just a span of a few weeks (if even that) and they are both from such different worlds, I was hoping for...more. I think an epilogue could've given that because by the end, I was unsure if they would even last long term. Which, ok I know this is YA and they are teenagers and who knows what will happen, but it would've been nice to have a little bit more of reassurance than what we got. But that could also just be me and my dislike of HFN endings. 

This book is a must for YA fans who love Greek myths but also who are looking for a story that will transport you into a world that has you looking around your own world and looking at it a little bit differently. I can't wait to read more books for this author!
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