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Shine On, Luz Veliz!

Before, Luz Véliz was a soccer star, her dad’s pride and joy, and a light in the neighborhood. But after Luz suffers a traumatic injury on the soccer field, everything changes, and she is left feeling set adrift in a world filled with disappointment. Luz must decide whether to continue attending soccer practice only to sit on the sidelines or to find another outlet for her energy and intelligence. Luckily, Luz has a kind and supportive neighbor who recognizes Luz’s affinity for gadgetry and helps to kindle an ember that begins to form within her. As Luz attempts to fill in the holes left behind from her injury, she finds the world to be a more complex and beautiful place than she ever imagined.

This early middle grade contemporary fiction story introduces readers to a girl named Luz whose life has been turned upside down at the age of 11 due to an injury that prevents her from continuing to pursue her passion for soccer. The disappointment and frustration Luz feels is amplified by both her adolescence and an added familial complication, and readers will recognize Luz’s emotional upheaval as she attempts to come to terms with the changes happening both in her world and in her relationships with her parents. The writing perfectly captures the intensity of these feelings, embedding them deep within the reader’s psyche before offering constructive solutions for managing them. Luz begins to undergo internal change with the help of a shift of focus to coding, and even readers unfamiliar with coding languages will feel comfortable with the level of detail and explanation included in this book.

Short chapters and engaging writing give this novel a rhythm that is easy to fall into. Younger middle grade readers will feel especially comfortable with the design of the book, though the content speaks to older readers, as well. At the center of this story, Luz is beginning to discover who she is while building herself into the person she wants to become. The world is opening up for her at the same time, though, and this is often a challenging and uncomfortable experience. As the complexities of family dynamics, global violence, illness, and the threat of deportation arise, Luz’s personal struggles are put into perspective, which inspires both Luz and the reader to think differently about their own lives. At the end of the book, readers find recipes for some of the foods described in the story, a list of famous scientists mentioned in the narrative, and an author’s note with more information about the impetus of the novel. This is an emotional and heartfelt addition to libraries for early middle grade readers.

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