cover image Libertad


Bessie Flores Zaldívar. Dial, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-59369-612-5

In this powerful debut, Zaldívar recreates the tumultuous world of 2017 Tegucipigalpa, Honduras, and the societal climate’s effects on 18-year-old Libertad (Libi) Morazán and her family, including her cherished brothers—25-year-old Maynor and 12-year-old Alberto—and hardworking grandmother and mother. Opening on the night of Libi’s first kiss with her best friend Cami, eight months before a heavily awaited, controversial presidential election, the narrative explores Libi’s expanding identity as a gay poet. While struggling with how this hidden development could effect her relationships with her friends politically divided yet loving family living in a conservative culture, Libi also wrestles with her fears over Maynor’s dangerous secret political activism. Complementing Libi’s unaffected, descriptive voice are occasional flashbacks from Maynor’s POV that expand on their family history and enrich character development. Through the eyes of a strong, sympathetic protagonist, Zaldívar crafts a hefty novel that offers detailed depictions of life in Honduras where characters experience random power outages, widespread corruption, and violent political demonstrations, and the personal tragedies they often bring, alongside daily comforts such as snacking on fried plantains and cold Coca-Cola. Occasional untranslated Spanish phrases add to the narrative’s authenticity; though it may give some readers pause, it rarely impedes comprehension. An author’s note provides historical and personal context. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)