Title: Dealing In Dreams
Author: Lilliam Rivera
At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.
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?
Let’s talk about the book
Dealing in Dreams follows a gang of fierce and violent girls who dream to climb to the top and live in the luxurious Mega towers. When the great day comes, the last battle, things go all wrong and Nalah, the leader of Las Mal Criadas, is forced to take a dangerous choice that will change everything.
This book was Latinx Book Club May pick, which I co-hosted with my dear friend Caro. I was very much excited to get to this book, 1) it has a very gorgeous cover, 2) we were all reading it for Latinx Book Club, and 3) it’s a YA Dystopian centering Latinx voices.
I went all-in for this story, very excited to dive into this world and characters. In the beginning, I enjoyed it very much. I liked the questions Lilliam’s rises, how morally grey the characters are, the found family theme. However, I found the plot predictable and all over the placed. And I had small problems that soon were big Yikes.
Let’s talk about the story
Lilliam Rivera explorers a world where violence is the reality. Survival and loyalty to your crew is what matters, nothing else. It’s a hard world that forces its characters to take tough decisions. A sort of matriarchal world (we’ll talk more about this later). As we advanced through with the story, we learned along Nalah that you can only trust your crew. This is not only a harsh, violent place, it’s also corrupted and very unfair.
I will give the book this, it does critic ableism, classicism and corruption. But I don’t think it does it well, it leaves things behind that I don’t understand. Is this a conscious choice? A careless choice? For example, this is a matriarchal society that oppresses men and boys? For what purpose? To reflect on today’s society? To say that a world ruled by corrupted women is like a machista world? Yeah, I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s well handled here, because it’s not handle at all. Sure, the book does discuss rigid gender roles but it feels a little bit uncomfortable with this flip. Like is it trying to appeal to boys? Is that why they’re the ones oppressed?
Besides the world-building, which I don’t think it’s very well handled and we barely get to see much, the plot is ridiculously predictable. Something that usually does not bother me too much if I care for the characters, which it didn’t happen here.
Let’s talk about Nalah
Nalah walks in the very thin, icy line in being an unlikable character and being an asshole. I know, I know, I’m always saying I love angry girls who are unapologetic. It’s not I didn’t like her, I just didn’t care about her. I think I need more characterization from her to feel close. Yes, I understood where she was coming from and the choices she was making, but I didn’t care how that made her feel at all. I guess this goes in hand with the writing not working for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I did not hate this book. It has a very wonderful found family relationship that it gets messy and bad before it gets better. And I do think the story raises important questions about rewriting history, being aware of what’s happening in the world around you, and the corruption of power.
Sadly, my biggest disappointment was the resolution. It just felt like a letdown. After everything we went through, things change in the last 2 chapters so fast. It felt like cheating, this new development in the characters that I was supposed to believe was real now. It was abrupt and anti-climatic. I like open endings, but not untied plot points.
One last good thing, however: I stan the friendship to the max and what it’s a perfect ending for this book. And friends, it could have been so gay. sad sigh