Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything Book Poster Image
Compelling coming-of-ager blends sci-fi and folklore.

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

Educational Value

Lots of words and phrases in Spanish, some translated and some with context clues. Some Mexican myths and folklore. Depictions of immigrants' experiences as well as systemic and individual racism may inspire empathy. Readers can be encouraged to research issues like deportation, immigration, and family separation.

Positive Messages

We all make mistakes, but we can fix them by being humble, saying sorry, and showing love. No one is all good or all bad. Once you understand this, you can empathize even just a little with your enemy and let go of their negative influence. Shows the value of strong family and friendship bonds, and of connecting to your past and your future through the wisdom and stories of your ancestors. Also emphasizes the harm that racist attitudes do to individuals, families, and society as a whole.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are positive representations of a diverse range of skin colors and ethnicities. Sia and her family identify as Mexican American. Her best friend Rose is Black, and Rose's parents are from Haiti. Love interest Noah is White, as is the villain, a racist small-town sherriff. Rose is in a romantic relationship with a female classmate and says she likes both boys and girls but lately mostly girls. Other characters have names that suggest South Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African identities, but none are specified. Sia is a strong model of courage, integrity, and perseverance. Rose and Noah model loyalty and courage. 

Violence

A past sexual assault is described, mentioning pain from being grabbed, forcing a hand on an erect penis, and forcing the victim's face into the assaulter's lap. The victim's trauma and recovery process are prominent story elements. Bruises reveal a physically abusive father, who was abused himself by his father. Sia mentions a boy whose hands always make their way to her behind. An unpleasant man grabs Rose's behind and makes a racist remark. Several fights include punching, kicking, and choking sometimes to the point of losing consciousness; being thrown onto rocks; pistol whipping; and tasing. A gunshot wound to the head mentions blood on the carpet. Illegal medical experiments involve cutting victims and inflicting many different kinds of pain and injuries that are briefly described. Hardships and deaths endured by people of color from unjust immigration policies and systemic racism are catalogued.

Sex

Receiving oral sex and having an orgasm are described briefly. Bringing a man to orgasm through clothing is briefly described. Kissing is described in detail both physically and emotionally. Feeling an erect penis is described several times. Lots of positive examples of asking for consent. Using a condom and being careful are mentioned a few times. Physical attraction and desire are described. Milder romantic dynamics include blushing, holding hands, and physical contact. Sia remembers a Harry Potter fan fiction story her friend wrote in which there's a same-sex kiss.

Language

"S--t," "t-ts," "d--k," "c--t," "motherf---ing," "assholes," "asshat," "damn," "butt," "skank," "whore," "spic," "sucked off," "prick," "crap," and "pendejo" (roughly equal to "a--hole" in Spanish), "Jesus," "Christ," "holy hell," "pervy," and giving the finger.

Consumerism

A few car makes, a clothing retailer, and a few food and drink brands mentioned to establish character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens seen "smoking out" (smoking marijuana) and drinking a shot of tequila at one party. Sia doesn't drink because it makes her tired and also because she's driving home.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, is a coming-of-age story with prominent folklore and sci-fi elements. It tells the story of Sia, a teen whose mother was taken by ICE agents and deported to Mexico, and Sia's high school experinces and eventual encounter with aliens. Mature sexual content includes brief but explicit descriptions of receiving oral sex, having an orgasm, and bringing a partner to orgasm through clothing. Kissing is described in detail physically and emotionally. Feeling an erect penis is described several times. There are lots of positive examples of asking for consent. Violence includes a descriptoin of a past sexual assault, fights, a gunshot to the head, and illegal medical testing that involves inflicting pain on victims in lots of different ways. Lots of strong language including "s--t," "motherf---ing," "c--t," "t-ts," and "d--k." Parental loss is a prominent theme. Lots of positive representations of people of color. Individual and systemic racism, especially to do with immigration policies like separating families and locking children in cages, are strong themes.

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What's the story?

SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING tells the story of 17-year-old Sia (short for Artemisia). Sia's been grieving the loss of her mother for about three years now, since her mother was taken by ICE agents and deported to Mexico. Sia knows the chances her mother is still alive are slim to none, knowing that her mother tried to cross the desert on foot to get back and hasn't been heard from since. But she can't quite give up all hope. As she starts falling for the cute new guy at school, tries to put a racist classmate in his place, and deals with a best friend who's drifting away, an alien spacecraft crashes into Sia's special place in the desert, and the pilot who walks out of the vehicle is the last person on Earth Sia expects to see. A vast conspiracy is revealed, and Sia with her friends and family find themselves on the run from an armed security force that will stop at nothing to get their pilot back, and to keep a tight lid on the truth.

Is it any good?

This well-written novel takes on a lot of issues thoughtfully and gracefully, but there's a split down the middle that may make some readers feel like they're suddenly reading a whole different book. The first half reads like a lovely coming-of-ager, with Sia grieving her mother, falling in love, dealing with racism, trying to recover from a sexual assault, and more. These elements are all effectively and compellingly blended with memories of her mother and grandmother telling her stories that connect her to her past, and to the whole universe. About halfway through, it suddenly becomes a sci-fi action thriller with spacecraft, aliens, a huge conspiracy, the whole nine yards. It's an exciting, well-written, and fast-paced thriller, for sure. But instead of seeming like an unexpected twist, it feels more like it should've been its own, separate book.

There's one small part of the wrap-up that doesn't ring true, but otherwise Sia is a believable character teens will easily relate to as she tries to find her place in her world and in the universe. Mature sexual content and lots of strong languag and violence make it best for older teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the strong sexual content in Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything. How much is too much? Is reading about it different from seeing it in movies, videos, or other media?

  • What about the violence? Same questions:  How much is too much, and is reading different from seeing it in other media?

  • Why is it important to see different types of people and different skin colors represented in media? How do you feel when there's a character you can identify with? What can you learn about people who are different from you?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Latinx stories and science fiction

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