We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia [in Booklist]
Being born on the wrong side of the wall means Dani’s parents took impossible risks to give her every opportunity for a better life. Despite her indigent origins, well-forged documents granted Dani access to the elite Medio School for Girls; as top graduate, Dani’s future is secure when she’s chosen as the Primera to Mateo, the ambitious heir to a powerful, political family.
As Primera, Dani is designated Mateo’s intellectual partner, while the emotional bond is claimed by the Segunda, who turns out to be Dani’s bullying rival, Carmen. Just when Dani’s convinced she’s achieved her parents’ dreams for her, a rebel faction threatens to expose her ignominious past unless she agrees to become the resident spy.
Kyla Garcia establishes an immediate rhythm to her performance, as if emphasizing the back-and-forth confrontations between the haves and have-nots, the powerful and suppressed, the autocrats and resistors. She embodies Dani as resilient and grounded; Carmen wavering between shrewd and frivolous; and Mateo cold, close to threatening. She’s most affecting when revealing emotional vulnerabilities – a rewarding development that clearly demands a Garcia-articulated sequel to come.