Reviews for The last cuentista [electronic resource].

School Library Journal
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Gr 5 Up—The magic and power of stories and storytelling help a preteen in a terrifying future. In 2061, with Earth about to be destroyed, 12-year-old Petra Peņa and her scientist parents and younger brother Javier are just barely aboard the ship that will take them to the planet Sagan when a group of zealots called the Collective, wanting absolute equality at the expense of any diversity, take over. Almost 400 years later, Petra is one of the last four "sleepers" revived, and the only one who somehow retains her memories of Earth. She uses the stories her family shared and a precious copy of Yuyi Morales's Dreamers to try to save the others in her cohort, her newly rediscovered brother, and what seems to be the last Collective child. Life on the ship, made even more claustrophobic by Petra's declining vision from retinitis pigmentosa, and filled with the translucent, drugged Collective, is particularly chilling. Mexican American Petra is a strong, heroic character, fighting incredible odds to survive and protect others. The ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel. VERDICT A keep-you-up-all-night, compulsively readable science fiction novel that offers much food for thought.—Mara Alpert, Los Angeles P.L.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In 2061, with Halley's Comet making a deadly and unstoppable journey toward Earth, a small group of scientists and their children prepare to begin civilization anew on new planet Sagan, more than 300 years away. Among them is Petra Peņa, almost 13, who, while she sleeps through the next several lifetimes, will download the biology knowledge of an expert. But Petra's true love is the cuentos—the stories—that her grandmother, who stayed behind, told her, and she's downloading folklore and mythology, hoping to bring all the stories of the world they're losing. But on the journey, something goes wrong: Petra wakes to discover that in the last few centuries, the small group of people living on the ship as caretakers have become the Collective, a unit singlemindedly focused on redirecting humanity by erasing everyone's memories of Earth—and even purging entire people, including Petra's family, altogether. Petra alone retains her memories, and her yearning for a community pushes her to seek out the first ship of Sagan settlers and to try to reach her fellow shipmates through the cuentos she still remembers. In a measured voice that weighs enormous loss against dazzling moments of hope and connection, Higuera braids Mexican folklore with science fiction to craft a tale that remembers storytelling as the beating heart of a people. Easy to sink into and harder to leave, this gorgeously sad, keenly contemplative novel embraces what it means to truly survive.


Kirkus
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With Halley’s comet barreling toward Earth, humanity’s last hope—including a young Latinx storyteller—retreats into the stars. Only a select few have the opportunity to vacate Earth in the year 2061, travel for 380 years in stasis, and start a new life on the planet of Sagan. Tearing herself away from her grandma and her cuentos, or stories, Petra Peņa follows her family aboard one of three fleeing spaceships. One ship—reserved for leaders and politicians—is lost. Petra awakens years later to find that the ominous Collective has taken over her ship. Along the way to Sagan, the Collective has ensured the eradication of any Earth-associated memories, reprogramming everyone onboard—and purging some—for the so-called greater good. Petra, however, eludes reprogramming. To survive the Collective’s fanaticism, Petra must play her part and participate in scouting missions on Sagan to help the Collective prepare for colonization. As she shares cuentos with other child passengers to stir their Earth memories, Petra concocts a plan to escape, seeking a rumored Collective-free colony of First Arrivers on Sagan. With poetic use of startling imagery and unabashed nostalgia, Higuera spins a tale that crosses the depths of space, interweaving Mexican folklore with a mystical strand of science fiction. It all works thanks to the author’s keen appreciation of storytelling’s role in shaping cultures, dreams, and lives. An overall slow burner, this tale packs a wallop. An exquisite tonic for storytellers far and wide, young and old. (Science fiction. 10-14) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
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An aspiring young storyteller with retinitis pigmentosa discovers that she’s the only one who remembers life on Earth after waking up 380 years in the future in this suspenseful speculative novel. In the year 2061, a solar flare has altered the course of Halley’s Comet, putting Earth and its inhabitants right in its trajectory. Twelve-year-old Petra Peņa, a resourceful Mexican American preteen who longs to follow in her cuentista grandmother’s footsteps and tell stories for a living, successfully boards one of the last ships off-world—as do members of a dangerous, cultlike group called The Collective. When Petra awakens centuries later at the ship’s destination, she quickly realizes that The Collective has wiped the memories—or lives—of her fellow passengers, and she must use her wits and Mexican folklore to protect the remaining humans and avoid the same fate. Through Petra’s gut-wrenching, tenderly crafted narrative arc, author Higuera (Lupe Wong Won’t Dance) explores how story can awaken empathy, hope, and even resistance in an audience. This is the work of a true cuentista: gripping, euphonious (“The wind carried it off far away into the stars”), and full of storytelling magic. Ages 10–14. Agent: Allison Remcheck, Stimola Literary Studio. (Aug.)

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