We Set the Dark on Fire

by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Daniela and her family illegally crossed the border into Medio when she was small.... read more

Daniela and her family illegally crossed the border into Medio when she was small. At 12, with forged citizenship papers, she was accepted into the Medio School for Girls, where students are groomed for one of two roles: Primera or Segunda—first or second wife—to the sons of wealthy, politically connected families, roles with origins in their culture’s creation story. Primeras are intellectual confidantes who support their husband’s career; Segundas emotional and romantic companions. Now graduating, Dani has been chosen as Primera to Meteo Garcia, son in a powerful family with Presidential aspirations for him. Dani’s arch enemy at school, Carmen, has been chosen as Mateo’s Segunda. La Voz, a resistance group protesting border regulations and immigrant crackdowns, recently provided Dani with better forged papers, but at a price: They want her to spy for them in Mateo’s household or risk losing all that her parents have sacrificed to give her. Mateo is cold and threatening, while Carmen unexpectedly evolves into a friend, perhaps even someone Dani can trust. As Dani discovers Mateo’s role in increased hostilities against protesters, she struggles to balance protecting her secret against acting as her conscience dictates. She’s also navigating feelings for Carmen that are turning from a tentative bond of trust to strong romantic attraction. Political intrigue set in an unspecified Latinx culture merges with budding romance in a tightly-paced plot that races to its cliff-hanger finale and has strong parallels to tensions in our world today. (Ages 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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