Darcy Little Badger
Published August 25, 2020
Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.
There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.
Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
I’ve had this book since it came out, and I can’t believe it took me over three years to finally read it! I totally see why this book is so popular, though. It has so much to offer. The voice is very young, which is perfect for YA. While the story is more serious, Ellie and her best friend Jay (no romance here) have a lot of silly banter and goofy moments that keep things from getting too grim.
I also really liked that Ellie’s family, especially her mom and her six-great-grandmother, are part of the story, but the focus remains on Ellie, and she drives the story forward. I think there’s one scene from her mom’s perspective, but even that centers on how she feels about Ellie and how she’s unable to save her.
All in all, I thought this was a well-paced, powerful story celebrating family legacy and identity. I just noticed that SHEINE LENDE, the prequel to ELATSOE, comes out next year, so I’m adding that one to my reading list for sure!
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Ellie identifies as romantic asexual.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.
Ellie and some of her family members can raise ghosts. Ellie uses this gift to raise the ghost of her dog, Kirby, whom she’s trained to protect her from harm. Raising a human ghost is forbidden, as it isn’t the person who returns, but a warped version of them bent on destruction and with access to great power.
Some other magical abilities exist. Some people are descendants of fae and have abilities or access to magic based on that lineage.
Vampirism is a curse that causes bloodlust and other symptoms.
Ellie and her family consult a psychic to try to discover what really happened to her cousin. She accidentally steps into the underworld at one point and later learns how dangerous this is.
Brief descriptions of injuries resulting from a car accident. Situations of peril. A vampire threatens to harm people. Ellie recalls a story of a river monster who killed many. Brief descriptions of a wooly mammoth ghost stomping and goring a man to death. A woman describes a man who pulled a knife on a young girl, intending to kill her. A ghost causes mayhem and wreckage at a party, injuring people.
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