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Playing For The Devil's Fire

Horn Book Magazine

Boli is your average thirteen-year-old boy, concerned with winning at marbles, scraping together money to see the lucha libre, and pining over a beautiful older girl. But one morning, his life changes forever: “It was a hot Sunday morning when we discovered the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla propped on the ledge of one of the cement planters in the plaza”—the first sentence of this searing, violence-drenched novel. The small, sleepy town of Izayoc, tucked away in a valley west of Mexico City, is suddenly populated by well-dressed strangers driving late-model SUVs. Long-standing businesses close; people disappear; and one by one Boli’s friends find suspicious work with the newcomers. When his parents fail to return from a trip, Boli, full of dread, is certain they have been murdered and knows something must be done. In a town that seems resigned to its fate, Boli finds hope in an unlikely hero, El Chicano Estrada, a washed-up luchador who arrives with the fair. “Together we would fight whoever was destroying the town. And I knew, like all the great heroes of Mexican history, we would win.”

This fictionalized depiction of the real terror the drug war has brought to Mexican communities will have readers rooting for Boli as he tries, in vain, to save his town. A glossary of Spanish words and phrases is provided.
- April 6, 2016 

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