Title: The Last Cuentista
Author: Donna Barba Higuera
Genre: Dystopia, science fiction
Published: October 12, 2021
Awards: John Newbery Medal, Pura Belpré Award
Triggers: genocide, death of a family member
In The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera, Petra Peña is young girl who is going on a journey after a meteor has destroyed Earth. The government has chosen a few hundred scientists and their children to leave Earth to travel to a new planet hundreds of years away. Each person on the journey plays a specific role in the future with some staying awake to care for those who will be placed in suspension to awaken at journey's end. But something goes wrong when the port is attached to Petra and she doesn't get all of the programming that she expects when she is put in stasis. When she awakens, she realizes quickly that something changed and she is the only person with memories of Earth because a group known as "The Collective" has taken over and erased everyone else's memories. Petra remembers the stories of her grandmother and hopes to use these stories and science to create a better society. But can she overcome all of the obstacles The Collective puts in her way?
This is the first Newbery winner in a long time that I truly enjoyed and would not be surprised if a sequel comes out. Petra was brave, smart, and compassionate main character. The other Zetas aren't as well written and fully developed but they were a strong supporting cast for Petra. The Mexican folklore was woven effortlessly into the story and helped bring the story to life. The descriptions of the planet Sagan and the spaceship were vivid and brought the setting to life. If I had to complain about something, it would probably be that there wasn't enough of a back story on the Collective to help explain their extreme views. The themes of embracing differences, the dangers of conformity, and remember your family history are all relevant to today.
"Equality's good. Equality and sameness are two different things." ~Petra's dad
This science fiction and dystopian book was a page turner full of suspense and emotional intensity. I enjoyed learning the Mexican folklore and how familiar it is to many of the stories in my own folklore. I can only hope that Petra survives and thrives on the planet Sagan.
If you enjoyed reading this book, you might like The Giver by Lois Lowry, Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk, The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling, or Amira & Hamza by Samira Ahmed.
This blog is written by Mrs. McHugh and her Library Advisory Club members.