A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that We Set the Dark on Fire is the first of two planned volumes set in a dystopian, fictional world. Through a same-sex romance and people rebelling against an oppressive government, it explores women's roles in society, especially as they're seen by men and reflected off them, too. A few instances of violence from rebellion, like gunshots and explosions, are mostly experienced from a distance, but pain from being burned is described in some detail. The overall atmosphere is menacing. A same-sex romance describes attraction and kissing, and one scene describes masturbation vaguely but sensually. Wine with meals and cocktail parties don't result in excess, but one character's behavior is altered in a bad way when he's drunk. The only strong language is "bitch."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE tells of a strictly divided society where the men at the very top each marry two women, a Primera and a Segunda. Despite her impoverished background, Daniela rose through the ranks to become the highest-achieving Primera of her class. Her place as first wife of the nation's most promising politician is assured. But her world starts to fall apart when her new husband's Segunda is none other than Carmen, her worst tormentor throughout her school years. And it keeps crumbling as her eyes are opened to those who are paying the real price to maintain her gilded cage. When she's asked to spy for the rebellion, it'll take all her training, and the support of the woman she loves, to avoid being found out.
Is it any good?
Debut novelist Tehlor Kay Mejia brings a refreshing Latinx twist to the first part of this absorbing, two-volume, dystopian story. Mejia ably builds a world that feels like a Caribbean island nation, complete with a compelling mythology and peppered with Spanish or Spanish-derived words and names. And especially strong is her ability to maintain a sense of dread and menace that keeps the pages of We Set the Dark on Fire turning.
Daniela and Carmen are relatable characters learning about the world around them, as it really is, for the first time. Other characters are mostly predictable clichés, from the magnetic leaders of the rebellion to the scheming, controlling mothers-in-law. But it'll provoke a lot of thought about women in society, social inequality, the walls that keep people out, and the walls that keep people in. Strong sensuality and mature themes make it best for teens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sexy stuff in We Set the Dark on Fire. How much is OK? Is reading about it different from seeing it in movies, videos, or games? Why?
Why is it important for books, movies, and other media to represent different cultures, races, sexual orientations, etc.? Do you often connect with the characters you see and read about? How? If not, why not?
Societies that separate themselves with walls have been around for a long time, yet the story of keeping the best people in and the worst people out resonates today as strongly as ever. Has reading about this divided society changed what you think about the effectiveness or wisdom of building walls between people?
- Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: February 26, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 10, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love dystopian novels and LGBTQ stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.