December 27, 2021

#BookReview: We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera

Synopsis: In a haunting, genre-bending YA, award-winning author Lilliam Rivera explores the social and racial ramifications of an alien invasion from the perspective of three Latinx teens.

Pedro, Luna, and Rafa may attend Fairfax High School together in Los Angeles, but they run in separate spheres. Pedro is often told that he's "too much" and seeks refuge from his home life in a local drag bar. Luna is pretending to go along with the popular crowd but is still grieving the unexpected passing of her beloved cousin Tasha. Then there's Rafa, the quiet new kid who is hiding the fact that his family is homeless.

But Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find themselves thrown together when an extraterrestrial visitor lands in their city and takes the form of Luna's cousin Tasha. As the Visitor causes destruction wherever it goes, the three teens struggle to survive and warn others of what's coming--because this Visitor is only the first of many. But who is their true enemy--this alien, or their fellow humans? Can Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find a way to save a world that has repeatedly proven it doesn't want to save them?

Pura Belpré Honor-winning author Lilliam Rivera examines the days before a War of the Worlds-inspired alien invasion in this captivating and chilling new novel.


Rating: 3 Stars
My Review: Drugs, Alien invasion, racism, and more. This was the full mash up of everything an author could do for a story. And well it both kind of worked but didn't.  I think for me this one would be a library grab vs. buying it sadly.  Because I do not think everyone will enjoy this one.  I still don't know how I feel about it.  The world was great and the characters were well done. But the entire mash up of what it is was just weird. 


“A brilliant, powerful, and yet tender and healing story. . . . Lilliam's words filled me with hope and light, even in the darkest times.” ―Yamile Saied Méndez, author of the Pura Belpré Award–winning novel FURIA

“This book is for right now, especially for teenagers navigating losses from COVID-19, seeing the injustices of our current systems, feeling the planet change, needing so much more from schools and community, learning to fight for the future they deserve through their grief. The monsters are structural racism and poverty, and the aliens are here to remind us what matters.” ―adrienne maree brown, New York Times bestselling author

We Light Up the Sky is an unflinching look at a Los Angeles that already feels dystopian to marginalized communities. Rivera's expert hand guides science fiction and the contemporary lives of three teens in a race for survival.” ―Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of LABYRINTH LOST

“A triumphant work of sci-fi and heart.” ―Kalynn Bayron, bestselling author of CINDERELLA IS DEAD

“A marvelous story about how we are all being flung into the future unprepared, and have to hang together as best we can.” ―Kim Stanley Robinson, New York Times bestselling author

“Skillfully crafted and absorbing, We Light Up the Sky is a fresh, complex take on the alien invasion story. Deeply poignant,
and not to be missed.” ―Amy Tintera, New York Times bestselling author

“Rivera offers an eerie, immersive page-turner that immediately grips readers in large part because of her skilled characterization that adds emotional richness to an engaging extraterrestrial mystery. . . . An engrossing and exceptionally relevant pre-apocalyptic tale that begs for a sequel.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Rivera portrays contemporary teenage life with empathy, using a mix of pop culture and social-justice politics to flesh out her characters.” ―Booklist

“Sharp social commentary, on-point humor (“I'm not mentally prepared for this part of the dystopia”), and a tender exploration of grief add heart and depth to a novel that's just right for fans of Attack the Block.” ―Publishers Weekly

“More than just a riveting alien-invasion story, though, this novel deftly weaves commentary on colonialism, police violence, and racial injustice into the chaos, leaving the main characters to wonder if the only people worth saving may be one another. Early threads of friendship, meanwhile, bind the story, ultimately becoming the trio's salvation. The novel's end chooses hope and a moment of calm over easy human victory and aliens routed.” ―BCCB

"A heart-pounding, eccentric and emotionally complex sci-fi. . . . haunting, emotional and socially relevant." -Shelf Awareness

"Rivera’s (Pura Belpré honoree for Never Look Back) complex characterization and artful dialogue bring to life a near-contemporary world on the precipice of annihilation. . . . Fans of alien invasion novels grounded in the real world, such as Dow’s The Sound of Stars and Yancey’s The 5th Wave, will enjoy this engrossing story." - The Horn Book

“A revitalized and layered retelling that expertly blends reality and fantasy to explore what's behind love and loss, what it takes to heal.” ―Randy Ribay, author of National Book Award Finalist PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING, on NEVER LOOK BACK

“Haunting and richly detailed, this is a beautiful re-imagining that will hurt and heal, sometimes on the same page.” ―Mark Oshiro, author of ANGER IS A GIFT, on NEVER LOOK BACK

Never Look Back reimagines the Orpheus myth into a bold creation that only Lilliam Rivera could breathe into life. A strange, unsettling love song of a book.” ―Elana K. Arnold, Printz Honor-winning author of DAMSEL, on NEVER LOOK BACK

“Seamlessly blends Caribbean and Greek myth into a contemporary teen novel, exploring realistic aspects of identity, stereotypes, trauma, and romance.” ―School Library Journal, starred review, on NEVER LOOK BACK

“Honors the Afro Latinx music, language, heritage and history of its characters. . . . Defying expectation and categorization, Never Look Back is a book not to be read with the mind but to be experienced with the soul. It is a revelation.” ―BookPage, starred review, on NEVER LOOK BACK

“This isn't a note-for-note retelling. It's something else altogether: a pensive exploration of the deep trauma historically suffered by colonized and enslaved peoples and how that entwines with more recent hardships, like Hurricane Maria, whose damage is worsened by the remnants of those same institutions. . . Never Looks Back sings its own love song to the world.” ―NPR on NEVER LOOK BACK

About the Author

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of the young adult novels Never Look Back, a Pura Belpré Honor winner, Dealing in Dreams, and The Education of Margot Sanchez, as well as the middle grade Goldie Vance series. Her work has appeared in The Washington PostThe New York Times, and Elleto name a few. Lilliam grew up in the Bronx and currently lives in Los Angeles.

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