Lobizona by Romina Garber
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: August 2, 2020
The concept of this book drew me into it right away. Often realistic, contemporary problems are reserved for realistic, contemporary books. “Supernatural” tends to invoke images of escapism. But Lobizona by Romina Garber deals with a real, heart-wrenching modern issue, and at the same time, introduces a mystical element that takes the protagonist Manu on an incredible journey of resolve-building and self-discovery.
At the start of the story, Manu is focused on staying hidden from ICE, which is especially challenging given that her eyes look so different from anyone else’s. She also receives special pills from her mother that cause her to sleep during the most painful parts of her monthly cycle. But Manu soon discovers that her family has deep, even magical, secrets that she must uncover. And the medicine she’s been receiving may have other purposes. Manu sets out on a journey to learn who (and what) she is and to find her father, who might have the answers she’s looking for.
The book is quite lengthy, which I’m all for if the story demands it. But at times Lobizona felt like a brilliant short novel that had been asked if it could please stay on stage just a little longer. Manu’s inner monologue stretches–she’ll have a thought or a question, take an action, and then repeat that same thought or question. Sometimes events are repeated in short succession, such as when certain characters distract a group the same way twice in a single scene. The length of time it takes Manu to realize and accept that there are supernatural forces also felt a bit drawn out, although this certainly isn’t an issue unique to Lobizona. It’s a common dilemma in urban fantasy: the audience knows magic exists, but the protagonist doesn’t. It’s hard to hold readers in suspense when something strange happens–we know why it’s happening, after all–and yet, we still want the protagonist to react in a believable way.
With that criticism out of the way, however, there is a lot to admire in this book. I enjoyed seeing Manu’s growth from someone who always let others make decisions for her to someone who takes initiative and owns it. She quickly became a character I could cheer for. I also thought the integration of Spanish within the text and dialogue was very well done. I loved the insights as to why a character might choose to speak in one language or the other in any given situation. My Spanish is strong enough that I usually got the gist of what was being said, but I always appreciated the way Manu translated in her head. It came off as a natural thing she might do, rather than a translation for the benefit of the audience.
Overall, Lobizona is a book I recommend. It’s a story that’s long overdue on the shelves, both for its willingness to tackle real-world issues within a supernatural setting and for its diverse cast and unique ideas.
Rating: 4 out of 5
You can find Lobizona on Goodreads
You can also buy the book on Lobizona: A Novel (Wolves of No World) Amazon. (Affiliate link. Please support your local bookstore first, if you have one!)