Lobizona by Romina Garber
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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED AUGUST 4TH, 2020
If you pick up one book this August, let it be Lobizona.
Originally meant to release yesterday, Lobizona has been moved to early August. And in a twist that worries me, it has the same publication date as the new Stephanie Meyer book, which means I have one request of you: do not let Lobizona flop.
I picked it up on a whim from NetGalley during the brief period where it was available as a “Read Now” title. It sounded incredible, and had a cover that drew me in with its beauty and intricacy.
Reader, what you get on the surface is nothing compared to the outstanding story inside. Lobizona follows Manu, an undocumented immigrant from Argentina, as she begins to unlock the secrets of her family and search for belonging in a world that is against her every step of the way. From the streets of Miami to the enchanting bruja and lobizón stronghold hidden in the Everglades, she aims to find her place, or better yet, to carve it out exactly as she deserves, on her terms.
The tropes may feel familiar, especially to fantasy readers, but it’s a comfort.
From the summary alone, you know that Manu is no ordinary girl, not by mundane standards, nor by the standards of the magical world she finds herself thrust into. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that she is the title lobizona, a female werewolf, and an impossibility even in this freeing world of Argentine magic. Because of this, Lobizona can feel familiar for most fantasy readers. With a dash of chosen one tropes, questions of parentage, unusual and highly emphasized eye colors, and rebellion brewing on the horizon, it’s building blocks are nothing unfamiliar.
But the power is in the execution, and Romina Garber has gone above and beyond.
While the building blocks of the story are familiar, the stunning setting and the sheer strength of character Manu exhibits are a solid hook. It’s a case where a degree of predictability works, because you’re not worried about where the story will go. Instead, you’re worried about how it will get there. More than that, you’re worried about where it will go once it leaves familiar territory behind.
I adored every minute of this book, I truly did. It was only a matter of time before Manu’s world blew wide open, and I was desperate to know which match was set to light the fuse. And now, having finished the book, I can’t wait to know where she and her friends go next. They have enemies now, powerful ones, but they also have the drive to change everything.
Maybe I’m just a sap, but how can I say no to a story about teens shaking off the traditions of older generations in order to build something better? Especially since in this case, we’re talking about teens angling to dismantle huge systems. Rampant sexism? It’s out. Homophobia? We’re done with that. The notion that anyone’s existence can be illegal? Our protagonists have had it up to here with that.
Even though Lobizona doesn’t yet dismantle these structures, it’s preparing to do so. Whatever comes next for the Wolves of No World series is bound to center on the hard work of radical change in the same way that Lobizona centers on Manu discovering herself.
And of course, Lobizona is unapologetically Latinx.
While I can’t comment on the precise quality of the rep, since I’m not Latinx, let alone Argentine, I can say that this is not a book that sprinkles a dash of culture on top in an effort to appear diverse. It’s an OwnVoices story by an Argentine immigrant, and it makes no apology for the untranslated Spanish, nor the cultural superstitions, nor the food and drink.
Moreover, it deals with incredibly real contemporary issues. Though most of the novel is fantasy through and through, the early chapters are more contemporary. They focus on Manu’s life in Miami, always keeping an eye out for ICE, always keeping her head down. Going unnoticed is the best way to survive, and her existence as an undocumented immigrant defines how she and her family move through Miami. Sure, her magical heritage affects that, too, but her immigration status is never far from mind.
No matter where she is in the world, Manu must contend with the powers that be claiming that she doesn’t belong. It makes me love her even more, how she fights against it even as she wavers in the face of it.
“May you be blessed by the moonlight.”
I could probably go on for another thousand words about this book if you let me. It’s packed with gorgeous imagery, a lovely group cast, and hope for a different, better future. Not only that, but it’s Latinx, it’s queer, it talks frankly about menstruation, it condemns ICE for the brutal organization that it is, and it’s the first in a series. I can’t wait to explore more of this world. Better yet, I can’t wait to see Manu make the rules. Her existence is not illegal. It’s simply new, and she has the power to write her own story. That no longer belongs to anyone else.
If you’re interested in Lobizona, be sure to place a pre-order before August 4th! Those of you who do will receive a set of five pins in the mail, plus the satisfaction of a brilliant new werewolf book. I can’t recommend it enough that you take advantage of this. Really.
Lobizona is one of my favorite books this year. Hopefully, it’s one of yours, too. ❤️
CW: loss of a loved one, sexual harassment and rape mentions, violence, ICE raids, graphic injury, gore