Lobizona a young adult fantasy novel by Romina Garber promises a story about a young Argentine discovering the truth of her heritage, but this novel is way more than that! Nothing in the blurb of Lobizona prepares readers for the rich and imaginative world that they’ll step into.
Manu’s a sheltered undocumented teen who never had friends or attended school but she finds a way to live out her adventures through books; and by spying on her neighbor across the street who she calls other Manu. All her life, Manu’s mother told her that they live in hiding because of her father’s powerful family. And Manu’s world crumbles when her adopted grandmother Perlas attacked, and she tells Manu to run. But when Manu runs to join her mother, she learns that her mother works in an underground clinic and that she never intended to file for asylum for either of them. Before Manu can unravel more of her family secrets, ICE invades the clinic, and her mother tells Manu to run.
With nowhere else to go, Manu ends up following her neighbor’s boyfriend into the Florida everglades where she finds a settlement of other Argentines only these people are different, and some of them have her starry eyes. Immediately Manu’s mistaken for a student of their prestigious magic school and put in a dorm with brujas Saysa and Catalina. But El Laberinto isn’t just home to witches, but Lobizones, werewolves, and Santiago catches Manu’s eye.
However, Manu cannot conjure magic, so she confesses the truth to her roommates and Tiago, and they agree to help her cheat her way through her classes until her magic manifests itself. Except when Manu comes into her powers, she’s not a witch at all, but a Lobizona. And she’s the first of her kind.
Additionally, Lunaris, the magical dimension every Bruja and Lobizon visit every full moon, holds the answers to all the questions Manu has been searching for. With the help of her friends, she will uncover the truth of her heritage and the identity of her father.
In short, this book SLAPS. It’s split into three phases. The first follows Manu’s life in isolation and her home with her mother and Perla. The writing is phenomenal and sucks you into Manu’s life and growing up in isolation. And one way that Manu deals with her loneliness is by living vicariously through her other Argentine neighbor, who she calls other Manu. I loved the inclusion of other Manu because it highlights Manu’s desires to live a normal teenage life.
Another important theme of this novel is community. When Manu and her mother immigrate to Miami, they move in with Perla, a stranger. And the apartment complex they live in is full of other Latinx people, some who are undocumented like Manu and her mother. And when ICE comes to ruin lives, the neighbors with residency status protect those without.
I expected Manu to lose her community when she enrolled at El Laberinto, but she becomes fast friends with her classmates, and they protect her when she is without magic and when they learn she’s a Lobizona.
I am a huge fan of the found family theme, and Lobizona has this and a secret father theme!
But not only does the writing feature themes of community, isolation, and mystery, it also invokes fall and woodsy vibes.
Now I did want to mention some characters before I wrapped up this post. Catalina comes off as a bitch who hates Manu for no reason. And I didn’t have the patience to read another story with a mean girl who bullies the protagonist luckily, Cata is not like that. She softens up once Manu tells her the truth. I would love to read more untrusting mean girls like Cata and Victoria from Blazewrath Games.
Another character I wanted to mention is Manu’s father. Fierro’s a fearless revolutionary who worked to change the division between their world and the human one. But he left his family behind and hid in another dimension. As a result, his identity is not a priority for Manu, but once she finds him, I was shocked. And I think Garber outdid herself with the reveal.
Also, I would like to personally apologize to Tiago’s character because I thought he was fuck boy, a toxico, but turns out he’s a great best friend! My bad.
Lastly, I want to touch upon the connection between Manu’s period pain and her time in Lunaris. When Manu said she passed out every month due to cramps, I felt that. When Manu said she passed out for days sometimes, I was like, “and you didn’t question that, Manu?”
I think there’s a connection between maturity and magic in fantasy novels, and I’m not opposed to it.
This book does have some content warnings I wanted to mention before anyone decides to dive in: Menstruation, ICE, Family separation, ICE abuse, Undocumented, Abundant mentions of Harry Potter and its characters, and homophobia.
But enough about the wolves, I’ll be traveling to Mexico city and visiting it’s vampires in my next read Certain Dark Things
until my next post,