*Gold Medal and Seal of Approval from Literary Classics: "well researched and beautifully told...a literary treasure." *RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Honorable Mention: "shines light on a little-known part of history and invites the reader to experience it first-hand." *2015 Books of the Year for Teen/Historical/Romance from BooksAndAuthor.com *The Historical Novel Society: "Covella's extensive research into the culture and society of the Spanish-settled New World is worked seamlessly into a very human story." It's 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, of Spanish and Pima Indian ancestry, can't seem to live up to her mother's expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. To escape, Fernanda grabs any opportunity to ride the horses she loves. At a greater cost than she could ever have imagined, her dream of adventure in faraway lands is realized. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza's historic colonization expedition to California. On the arduous four-month journey, Fernanda makes friends with Feliciana, the young widow Fernanda can entrust with her deepest thoughts; Gloria, who becomes the sister Fernanda always wished for; and Gloria's seductive brother Miguel, gentle one moment, angry the next and, like Fernanda, a mestizo--half Indian and half Spanish. As Fernanda penetrates Miguel's layers of hidden feelings, she's torn between him and Nicolas, the handsome Spanish soldier hoping to win her heart. But propelling Fernanda along the journey is her search for Mama's Pima Indian past, a past Mama refused to talk about, a past with secrets that Fernanda is determined to learn. The truths she discovers will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.
It's told in Fernanda's POV, so you are in a 15-year-old mind, just keep that in mind when you read it. Sometimes Fernanda doesn't do the right choices and questions things that are so easy to understand. But she's young and her experiences aren't so huge to have that understanding yet, but she, throughout the novel, learns and her mistakes will make her grow.
One of the main things happening in this book is, early in the story, her mom dies and Fernanda questions why her mom never spoke about her heritage (her mom was Pima) to Fernanda. She wants to learn why there was a dispute with a family member and to embrace her culture, because while her dad is Spanish and they think the Spanish are some glorious beings (and it's clear in the story there is serious racism towards the natives), she gets to learn that that view is not right.
She meets a pair of siblings in the journey to California, Gloria and Miguel, both are Spanish-Native too. I really liked them. Gloria is a shining star and her brother is so swoony and adorable. He does do the hot-and-cold thing some heroes in YA do sometimes, but he actually wants Fernanda to do what she does best and never change her, not like Nicolas, her other prospect in the story. Though it's clear who Fernanda wants, I wouldn't consider this a "love triangle" per se.
It's such a short story and the writing is so easy to get into and not at all hard to understand. The plot is not so intense and you will have fun getting to know all the people going on this journey. Fernanda is hard-working and she loves her family so much. Even though her mom just died and her brothers are left without a mother figure, she gets into that role but not really. She knows and they know Fernanda would never be like her mom. But she wants her siblings to know that she will always be there for them and will love them and protect them forever.
- Self-discovery journey
- Sweet love story
- Great family relationships