Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It's all they've heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.Hating her mother's humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it's the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . .Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.
Twelve-year-old Paola Santiago has always been more comfortable with science and logic than with her mother's ghost stories, especially due to her history of vivid nightmares. When her friend Emma vanishes near the banks of Silver Spring, Ariz.'s Gila River, a place forbidden to Paola because of its history of mysterious disappearances, she and friend Dante investigate, only to be sucked into a realm where monsters out of her mother's stories stalk them. The two find refuge with Los Ni os de la Luz, an army of child warriors who guard the world's liminal spaces. To track down Emma and save the world, the two must draw upon the strength of their friendship and confront a centuries-old tragedy. With this adventure, Mejia (We Set the Dark on Fire) draws upon her Latinx heritage to conjure creatures from folklore, such as chupacabras, La Llorona, and disembodied hands, arming Paola and her allies with fantastical weapons and layering in realistic plot points: socioeconomic and immigration concerns, the tension between science and superstition. Complicated emotional development is a particular strength Paola wrestles with issues of anger and forgiveness, mother-daughter strife, and the new "boy-girl weirdness" between her and Dante en route to becoming a reluctant hero. Ages 8 12.