Lobizona: Wolves of No World, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Lobizona: Wolves of No World, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Compelling Latina hero, rushed storytelling in deep fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Mentions of Guerra Sucia in Argentina in the 1930s, when the intolerant government killed and separated families. References to a lot of great literature, including One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. An explanation of Magical Realism in Latinx literature. Also includes a lot of dialogue in Spanish (some of it Argentinian slang).

Positive Messages

Love and loyalty to family and friends. A call for justice and empowerment for women, the LGBTQ community, and especially for the undocumented. A reminder to look for the fantastical and miraculous in the real world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Manu is brave and resourceful when she leaves her home and finds her place among witches and werewolves. She cares more about protecting her mother and her new friends than about keeping her dangerous secrets.

Violence

A woman beaten unconscious by ICE agents, another separated from her crying infant. Fights with monsters where monsters get heads cut off, necks snapped, and are stabbed through the throat. A man is drained of his energy by magic. Main character, Manu, suffers menstrual cramps so severe that she must be knocked out for three days with special pills. An old woman is attacked, falls, and hits her head. Werewolves fight each other. Mentions that Manu's father is either dead or disappeared and that Guerra Sucia killed and separated families in Argentina in the 1930s and forced many to flee the country.  

Sex

Some passionate kissing and partial undressing, straight and LGBTQ.

Language

"F--k" and "s--t" are common in heated arguments and exclamations. Less common: "ass," "dick," "damn," "hell," and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A special mate tea taken every day at the academy has hallucinogenic and magical effects. Flowers in an alternative realm seem to have similar magical properties and are consumed by all ages.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lobizona is the first book in the Wolves of No World series by Argentinian American author Romina Garber. The main character, Manu, is living in Miami undocumented and hidden away by her mother because they fled from danger in Argentina in secret and because of Manu's striking, alien-looking eyes. When ICE agents come, they take Manu's mother, beat another woman unconscious, and separate a baby from its mother. When Manu discovers her link to an academy of witches and werewolves, there are some battles with monsters where monsters are beheaded and stabbed through the throat. You'll read plenty of Spanish in dialogue, most of it translated, some of it Argentinian slang, and lots of "f--k" and "s--t" as well. Both straight and LGBTQ characters passionately kiss, and mate tea and alien flowers have magical and hallucinogenic effects. Manu is brave and resourceful when she leaves her home and finds her place among the witches and werewolves. She cares more about protecting her mother and her new friends from harm than about keeping her dangerous secrets.

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What's the story?

In LOBIZONA, every time Manu has menstrual cramps her mother gives her special pills that knock her out for three days. In that time she dreams of a world of monsters and magic and wakes up feeling different. She's always been different, thanks to having pupils that look like tiny suns, but one month she grew three inches, another her vision became razor-sharp, and this month she woke up hearing even the faintest sound. She also woke up to seeing something strange on her apartment's rooftop: two people talking of hunting and giving off red smoke, one wearing a leather jacket in the Miami heat. She manages not to be seen, and her mother tells her to be careful. Manu and her mother are undocumented and have been in hiding for years after fleeing Argentina when Manu's father disappeared. She doesn't want trouble. But trouble comes when there's an ICE raid at her mother's work and Manu barely escapes. Manu sees the man in the leather jacket again and, on instinct, climbs into the back of his truck in secret. She jumps out of the truck in the Everglades and is soon discovered by a boy her age with the same wild eyes. He offers to take her back to "the group" for orientation and she plays along, wondering if she will finally find out the secrets about who she is.

Is it any good?

While the story builds too hastily, it will still draw readers in thanks to Manu, its undocumented and part non-human main character. When we meet Manu she's already got some superpowers -- super smell, super hearing, super-thick hair -- and wild eyes that look like suns, which she needs to hide behind glasses. And every day she's scared of ICE finding her and her mother in Miami. She has to run away from everything to find who she is. The world she discovers is full of witches (brujas) and werewolves (lobizones), and her place in it fascinates.

The world would fascinate more if it had been more carefully drawn for the reader. It's really hard to visualize the academy Manu finds in the Everglades and the parallel realm beyond. The author also takes shortcuts with the building of Manu's new friendships. It's really hard to understand why two girls who barely know her are willing to risk themselves to cover up her secrets. The rules of this secret world are also sparsely laid out, making the stakes for Manu's discovery hard to grasp. Careful plotting and lots more description would go a long way toward making this good fantasy read a spectacular one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Manu's undocumented status in Lobizona. How does her plight relate to the news today? Do you feel more empathy for undocumented people as you think about Manu's daily life and isolation?

  • Have you ever read a story about someone undocumented? Why are these voices rarely heard?

  • Will your read more in this series? What do you think is next for Manu and friends?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and Latinx stories

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