Trigger Warnings: menstruation, ICE arrest, discussions about immigration and fear of deportation, homophobia (called out by the characters)
Lobizona is about Manuela Azul, an undocumented Argentinian immigrant living in Miami, whose discovery of a magical world turns her life upside down. When I saw this book, ownvoices Argentine rep, I was cautiously curious. I mean, internally, I was screaming of excitement, but I didn’t want to place my expectations too high. Oh, but friends, this book climbed out of my expectations chart and broke it into pieces. This book!!
Romina Garber has created a beautiful and magical world that feels like going home. I have read this book twice now, and both times, I have kept it close with tears in my eyes. This is a story about an undocumented teen girl, about identity, about Argentine myths.
I have such a difficult time talking about this book without adding ten thousand exclamation points. This story left me eternally screaming; it’s beautifully written, the world-building is fascinating, Manu is one of my favorite characters, and the themes of immigration and identity were well done.
I will keep this story close to my heart for a long time, and I’m so excited for everyone to read it soon (come out August 4th). Yes, Lobizona is so worth the hype, and let me tell you why.
“No matter how many borders we cross, we can’t seem to outrun the fear of not feeling safe in our own homes.”Lobizona by Romina Garber
It was my first time reading Romina Garber, and it will not be the last. Her writing was beautiful, it is not poetic necessary, but it evokes emotions so well. The story has a very emotional undertone because, as an undocumented immigrant, Manu always fears deportation or separation from her family. She has to hide herself to survive, and it is scary, frustrating, and so exhausting.
I highlighted so many quotes. Manu’s internal monologue felt like an open conversation with a friend, so raw and unfiltered, it brought tears to my eyes. You cannot look away from Manu’s reality as an immigrant. Lobizona is a story about immigration, yes, but from the perspective of one girl. This story is deeply personal, these are her feelings and thoughts. There’s so much power on that.
Also, a small side note that means nothing in the big scheme of the story, but the way they described Buenos Aires? I love it! Leather, coffee, and old paper. So nostalgic!
“I think I was born waiting to see the stars.”Lobizona by Romina Garber
Manu lives in Miami with her mom and her surrogate grandmother, Perla, with the number one rule of never call attention to yourself. As undocumented immigrants, their best chance to survive is to be invisible. To protect them, Manu has to hide inside their building, dreaming of a better future and the stars. Because you see, Manu’s irises are yellow suns and her pupils are silver stars. Then one day, Perla is attacked and Manu’s only option is to leave her and find her mom at work. This sparks a series of events where she ends up finding a new, magical world in the middle of Miami where she actually may belong.
As Manu learns about witches and lobizones (werewolves), she learns about her own identity. This is a coming of age story, she comes to her power and strengths throughout the book. But there’s also a distance from the world-building because Manu doesn’t feel like she quite belongs in El Laberinto. As an immigrant, all her life she has felt like other, always foreign in all the spaces she occupies, never at home because she doesn’t belong anywhere. That was so powerful and heartbreaking.
As she unravels this world of Argentine myths, she learns about how rigid and gender binary it is.
The story is also about resistance because Manu’s entire existence is an act of rebellion in this society, but she’s also pushed to see how the system hurts everyone. I really appreciated some of the discussions the characters have about gender roles, misogyny, and homophobia in this society. I do hope we get to see more in the next book, but this was a great starting point.
This world feels like Argentinian society in many ways, both good and bad, and I found it so powerful that in this fantastical setting we can still discuss how, although we have progressed, Argentina’s gender roles are still so rigid and harmful. Manu and her friends’ challenge feels like a direct challenge to the country and I appreciated that.
Yes, Lobizona is a coming of age story with discussions of immigration but it’s also a story about revolution. When your existence is not wanted, everything you do is an act of resistance. Manu understands this better than anyone else. And yes, maybe she also gets some wonderful new friends who want to start a little revolution in their world. Sometimes that happens!
I know I’m being very vague about the plot, but I think that’s the best way to get into this story. I was so pleasantly surprised, it has been a while since a book left like this. The reveals and plot twists were perfect, and that ending may be one of my favorites.
There’s a magical school, witches, werewolves, dangerous forests and a lot of Argentine folklore and I love every single thing about it. I don’t want to spoil you, so I won’t go into the particulars of the school just yet, maybe after the book is out.
This is one of the fantasy books where culture is part of the world and we see glimpses of Argentine life everywhere; they eat carne al horno, drink mate, play futbol, dance tango…These things are part of the world, of course, they are because a magic system that exists at the par with society will be heavily influenced by it.
Such a small thing, a detail that in the overall plot is nothing, but I’m still thinking about it: they use their magic to cook asado, Argentinian barbecue. I mean!!!
I adore Manu a lot. A LOT. Her love for space and books, her bravery and fierce love, her frustration, and anger. My heart broke for her and her happiness brought me so much joy. She finds her voice during the story. And I know, that’s something we have seen in YA books before, but not with an undocumented Argentinian immigrant and there’s a lot of value in that story.
I adore the secondary characters, especially Manu’s new friends. Tiago, Saysa, and Cata are the best and I adore how they all slowly become team Manu, ride or die kind of friends. Especially love the rivals to friends, my favorite kind of trope. This story has a little bit of found family and you know I love that too. Oh god, my little found family, tears to my eyes! I love them.
Also, a big shout out to Perla, Manu’s grandmother, I adore her so much. She teaches Manu’s literature and she’s so strong. Perla left Argentina escaping the horrors of the dictatorship and this is something that keeps coming back to the story. I appreciate that a lot because that’s something that never leaves my mind, the ways the dictatorship affected my grandmothers and the way it indirectly affected me. That trauma that Manu doesn’t completely understand because it wasn’t her reality, but she also sees in her own trauma… Anyway, I thought it was such a small detail that made a great point in the story.
This has been a long review and a lot rambling, I feel like. I’m sorry, I tried to be coherent, I wanted this to be a good review, but I just have a lot of love and I just want to keep screaming. But please, if there’s something I want you to take away from this post is LOBIZONA IS NOT MAGICAL REALISM.
Okay, that and also, this is a phenomenal story with so much heart and vulnerability, and an incredible world-building and characters. Romina Garber redefined, for me, the boundaries of fantasy and created a story that deserves to be loved and admired.
Also, have you seen the finished copies of this book? Yeah, you need your copy!
Link to Melanie’s shop, commission your funko pop!