A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some words and dialogue in Spanish aren't translated but have context clues. Readers will gain some insight into the geography of Los Angeles, places of interest there, and everyday life of people who live there.
Our humanity comes from our willingness to help one another and stick together during difficult times. Nothing can be gained by closing yourself off from the world; you have to let people into your life and your heart in order to surive and thrive. Now is the time to look beyond just taking care of yourself, it's time to do what you can for others to make the world a better place.
Positive Role Models
Pedro, Luna, and Rafa are seniors in high school who all three take school and academic achievement seriously. Pedro's an aspiring social-media influencer who wants to experience life to the fullest; and to be seen, heard, and valued for who he is. Luna's still mourning the loss of her cousin two years ago. She's still struggling but trying her best to get through life in spite of her pain. She prefers math and numbers to emotions, and uses mathematic principles to find solutions to problems. Rafa lives in a tent under the freeway with his parents and younger sister. He's quiet, observant, and witty. He wants to protect his family and models a close, loving relationship with his sister, who's about 7. There's a positive model of a budding same-sex romance.
The three main characters are Latino, as are almost all other characters. They're each unique individuals who are positive representatives of very different types of people. Luna is good at math and lives a priviledged life in a nice house, with almost no experience or even awareness of what life's like to be without privilege. Pedro's home life is stable but terrible, with an uncle who constantly berates him. He finds safety and a sense of belonging in a drag club. His personality and clothing are flamboyant, and he mentions being open to a girl, boy, or person. Rafa tries to keep a low profile to hide the fact that he and his family live in a tent under the freeway and that he's often hungry. He's very intelligent, loyal, and protective of his family.
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Violence & Scariness
Real-world violence includes police aiming cocked guns at high-school students, and one officer presses his boot into the back of a teen lying on the ground. There's also some verbal bullying and a fistfight. A scary dream mentions bleeding hands and screaming in agony. In the fantasy realm, an alien controls plants and animals, using them to kill or injure people. Branches and leaves grow instantly out of people's bodies, tearing them apart, or encircling people to trap or choke them. Enhanced mountain lions and coyotes prey on or attack people. Blood, gore, and pain are mentioned but not described in detail.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Having sex in the past mentioned. A kiss on the cheek. Some romantic dynamics as two characters start to fall in love.
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"F--k," "d--k," "ass," "bitch," and the middle-finger gesture. Coarse language in Spanish includes "perra" and "puto," not translated.
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Products & Purchases
Pop culture references to singers, TV shows, and social media. One character works at In-N-Out. Various retail outlets mentioned in a high-end shopping mall. Rambler coffe mug.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mentions of smoking marijuana and taking Ecstasy in the past. A teen is offered vodka at work but turns it down. A teen goes to a closed nightclub and is served tea.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that We Light Up the Sky is science fiction with strong, positive Latino representation. Violence in the fantasy realm includes plants and animals controlled by an alien to kill or injure people by choking, tearing them apart, and eating them. Blood, gore, and pain are mentioned but not described in detail. Real-world violence includes police pointing cocked guns at high school students, and pressing a boot into the back of a teen lying on the ground. Strong language is rare but includes "f--k," "d--k," and "bitch." There are some romantic dynamics, a kiss on the cheek, and mention of having sex in the past. A teen is offered vodka by a coworker but turns it down. Mention of taking Ecstasy in the past. One character is mourning the loss of her cousin two years ago to COVID-19. Important issues explored include social justice, excessive force, police brutality, housing and food insecurity, racism, prejudice, and more.
Is It Any Good?
This thought-provoking novel blends eerie ghost story, imaginitve fantasy, and sci-fi elements to create a story with broad appeal, seen through the eyes of three compelling and complex characters. The storytelling in We Light Up the Sky is straightforward and tight, which keeps the pages turning and leaves no room for subtlety, guesswork, or flowery language. Teens will relate to Pedro, Luna, and Rafa as they learn to work together; where their humanity lies; and not to let fear, guilt, or embarrassment close them off from life's possibilities. Readers will also have a lot of food for thought about important issues, many relating to social justice. The cliffhanger ending will have readers anxious for the next installment.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.