Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash - especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her . . . and for him.
As a coming-of-age story, I adored it. Both Ben and Lala are at turning points in their lives. Ben didn't want to be stuck in the small town of Gypsum, but now that the town is shutting down he must come to terms with moving on being more than just him leaving--everyone is going and his hometown is no more. Still, the fact that he has a chance at a different future than the life everyone around him has leaves him with mixed emotions. As with Lala, she too is examining what it means to follow the path her culture and family have chosen for her--and whether it is what she wants.
The backgrounds of both Ben and Lala are done in such a way that you can see all sides. You understand why Ben has always wanted to go, yet why Gypsum shutting down has such an effect on him. Lala's gypsy background isn't as black and white as it could have been, but explored and you sense the conflict and affection Lala has for her upbringing and what it means for her future.
All of this set against Burning Man. While not the focus, what it means culturally and to each character is explored. The self-discovery and escape of the festival works as a parallel o the transitions of both Ben and Lala, as well as what it means to connect with others. Elana K. Arnold does a great job with the layers to the story, weaving each concept together as well as referencing other coming-of-age literature, fairy tales and poetry, bringing it all together beautifully. On top of that, there is a sensuality to the writing (especially in Lala's parts) and lyrical quality that made the emotion and passion so present, really drawing me in. I highly recommend this book!
- The layers and references.