Tag Archives: Lilliam Rivera

Book Review: Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Bloomsbury YA
TBP Sept. 1st, 2020

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.- Goodreads

This is a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus. If you don’t exactly remember here the quick snapshot is this man goes to the underworld to save the woman he loves and has to walk back above without looking back to her. If he looks back, she stays in the underworld.

I love the spin Rivera puts on this mythology. Pheus is what makes this book. He has so much life and personality. Eury is sad and depressing. She has every right to be as there is a demon trying to take her to the underworld but calling it like it is, Pheus is what brings the life, the color, the interest to this story. He as well as the plot is written very well.

The story is told through both of their point of views, which shows the difference in personality between the two. Other than my love of Pheus what I loved was the rich environment. I’m from New York, Harlem & Long Island specifically and to see the Bronx so clearly, to hear the train as Rivera describes it is freaking amazing. The writing in this book is done extremely well.

There is a low build up in the novel but it is worth it. What I would have liked to see more is the family history of Pheus and Eury. Its mentioned and pretty much brushed over at the end. I would have liked to see more of that family connection and history since he is used as a foundation towards the end of the book.

The imagery in the novel is fantastic. When it starts getting to the climax/the end of the book it is thick and rich. However, I do feel the ending was not as strong as it could have been and a bit rushed but it did give me a satisfied feeling.

The culture displayed in this novel, being Dominican/Black and Puerto Rican could have been/should have been add more beyond the music references. Again, this goes back to family history. Its mentioned but doesn’t play a whole lot of significance until the end of the novel.

Overall, this was a fantastic read. I’m a sucker for mythology and this retelling was done really well.

4 Pickles 


Book Review: Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published March 5th 2019
336 Pages

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live.

To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?– Goodreads

I needed a day to think on this book. My overall conclusion is that it is a solid read but it has a very big issue.

Nalah is an interesting character because she takes her role as Chief Rocka seriously; as she should. Her gang Las Mal Criadas (LMC) is one of the toughest gangs in Mega City. Its her life and fighting is everything she has always known.

However, because the Mega Towers is where she and her crew want to be, Chief Rocka takes deal with from the founder to get there. Here is where things get interesting. Rivera sets you up for the fight and a possible betrayal of the lifetime. Chief Rocka isn’t as bright as she makes it seems. She is driven by anger and the constant need to fight. Yes, she can talk down the worst of them but she can’t seem to get things right exactly.

From beginning to about the last 4 chapters of the book, I am sucked into this world. All girl gang group and men for the most part out of the picture (except for at boydegas for the most part). This book is dystopia through and through. However, from the beginning you can see clearing that something is off. Rivera doesn’t get into too much detail about the wrong but focuses on Chief Rocka and LMC. It is as if the mess around them are background information that drive the girls but doesn’t exactly define them, at least at this point in their lives.

There was an expectation that the “battle” or at least the wake up moment was going to be huge but it was disappointing to say the least. Nothing changed and when the change happened, it was so smooth it was as if they were just taking a casual stroll.

I hated the ending. I hated how easy things became for Chief Rocka and how things just flowed. All of that build up, all that anger just to be let go as if nothing happened. The book just ended with nothing. I had to re-read the last few pages to make sure I was not bugging but nope I was not.

I wanted something so much more for LMC and Chief Rocka. I was highly disappointed with how things went.

Overall, worth the read but not exactly worth it emotionally. Characters were great, the build up, the world building was both on point. But the climax needed work as well as the ending.

3 Pickles