A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Dystopian fantasy meant to entertain and provoke thought.
Having money and status or believing you're chosen by a god doesn't make you better than anyone else. Being privileged doesn't make you a higher quality than anyone else. Oppressed and suppressed people will eventually rise up. Refusing to listen to them or help make their lives better only results in chaos, turmoil, and violence.
Positive Role Models
Dani, loyal and grateful to her parents, is trying to live the life they want for her instead of the life she would want for herself. She's worked hard to become the highest-achieving student in her year. As she's exposed to her society's cruelties and injustice, she bravely risks her personal safety and security to try to bring about change. She and Carmen are positive representations of a same-sex relationship. Lots of positive representations of Latinx culture in a fantasy setting. Most other characters are mysterious. Some turn out to be good. Bad guys are usually motivated by craving power.
Violence & Scariness
Protestor/police violence like explosions and gunshots. Pain of a burn victim is described in some detail. A knife held at the throat draws blood. Lots of hostile characters and a pervasive sense of menace and dread.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A same-sex romance involves lots of sexual tension and sensuality, and a few scenes of heavy kissing with mostly emotional descriptions. Masturbation is vaguely but sensually described once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking includes wine with meals and cocktail parties in a glamorized world, but there's no excess or consequences. Some negative, altered behavior from a bad guy who's drunk.
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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."
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.