We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Posted by ME
Full disclosure, I bought this book simply because a) the beautiful color, b) Latinx author, c) LGBTQ representation in YA lit, and d) omg did you see that cover? Lesser deciding factors were the cool world-building and the fact that I do enjoy dystopian fiction.
The book opens with the legend dating back thousands of years which explains why in this society the men (or at least the wealthy elite) have two wives. As in, the top-notch girls are sent to a special finishing school where they will either become a Primera or a Segunda. Primeras are the emotionless, intellectual, calculating heads of the household whose efforts will make or break their husbands’ careers. The Segundas (though “second,” they are not inferior or answer to the Primeras) are the loving, sensual, child-bearing heart of the family.
The FMC Daniella has graduated at the top of her class to become a Primera, which means she fetched an astronomical price when her husband’s family bought her for him. Her rival/archenemy throughout her years at school is none other than the Segunda they purchased for him as well.
[Record scratch] See, I thought this book was going in a different direction with just that fact alone. Non-spoiler, I was wrong!
However, crucial to my deducting one star is the following SPOILER ALERT:
While I am not gay myself, I was a little take aback by the romance that inexplicably developed very suddenly between the main character and her chief tormentor. I’ll admit that I cringed; it felt almost wrong that the author would have Dani fall completely in love with her bully, and likewise have that bully love her in return.
I did love, however, the fact that this book is set in a fictional Latino island country where there are border walls, armed guards to keep the “undesirables” out of the country, an entire blackmarket network where one can buy identities and documents, and where those from the outer lands are simply trying to better their lives, even if it means crime and deception. It was poignant, and an important metaphor that readers need.
Overall, a great read and I’m glad to see more diverse titles making their way onto mainstream bestseller lists and getting the attention they rightfully deserve.