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The Grief Keeper
Cover of The Grief Keeper
The Grief Keeper
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This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the...
This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the...
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  • This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.
    Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol's mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber's, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as "an illegal", but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi's, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn't be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn't have been caught crossing the border.

    But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She's asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It's a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

    The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the cover Chapter 1
     
    We believe in luck. The good kind and the cruel. The kind that graces and the kind that cripples. The kind that doesn’t care what you deserve.
     
    My mother cleaned for a wealthy couple in Colonia Escalón, in the time before our bad luck. Mrs. Rosen liked my mother because she spoke English and because she would play mahjongg with her. After Mamá had scrubbed the toilet and the bidet the Rosens never used, she would make tea, and I would help Mrs. Rosen lay the clicking tiles facedown on the table.
     
    I was allowed to watch them play, as long as I was quiet. After Mamá would inevitably lose, she would joke about La Mala Suerte that followed her through life.
     
    “Oh, Maria, don’t give a kneina hura,” Mrs. Rosen would say. “Don’t call bad luck down on yourself.”
     
    But that’s not how luck works. She comes when she comes, with an open hand or a fist. You never know which one.
     
     
    “What does priceless mean?” My little sister leans close and whispers her words into my neck. She says the English word the way you would in Spanish, “prees-less.” Her accent is still terrible. I whisper back, voice almost a sigh, because we’re not supposed to talk in this room.
     
    “It means without a price.”
     
    Gabi narrows her eyes at me in annoyance. It is very odd to see my mother’s expression on my twelve-year-old sister’s face.
     
    “I know that,” Gabi says, exhaling like she’s talking to una tonta. “But what else does it mean?”
     
    I dart a look at the closest metal doors. The two guards are talking. Not looking at us.
     
    Priceless means it’s so valuable, you can’t pay for it. You can’t replace it. Ever.” Like you, I think, then wish I hadn’t. If I let myself worry about how little I can protect Gabi, I will scream.
     
    “That doesn’t make any sense. Why did that guard say a joke was priceless?” She points to one of the guards, and I immediately push her hand down. I don’t want their attention on us.
     
    “I don’t know,” I say distractedly. Lunch is almost over. We eat fast so we can have a few minutes together before Gabi goes to her classes and I go to mine. She’s in an advanced class because she knows so much English. I sit alone with a guard in a small room meant for babies because there is no one else here in my grade. The guard gives me worksheets to do and books to read. I never take the ones in Spanish. I want to show her, and the people I know are watching on the video cameras mounted on the thin walls, how good an American I can be. The guard doesn’t let me use the computer.
     
    But today is different. After I take Gabi to her class in one of the trailers parked inside the walled courtyard, my guard—her name tag says REYNOLDS—takes me through the longer hallways that lead, I think, to the exit. I panic a little, thinking that they will push me out the door, or take me somewhere without Gabi. I take a deep breath and tell myself to steady my voice. I want to be respectful and not show fear.
     
    “Where are we going, ma’am?” I ask Reynolds.
     
    She slows her stride and looks at me with an expression that seems to say, I forgot you could talk.
     
    “Your interview,” she says curtly before picking up her pace again. I knew it was coming. The first night at the border, I knew...

About the Author-

  • Alexandra Villasante has always loved telling stories—though not always with words. She has a BFA in Painting and an MA in Combined Media (that's art school speak for making work out of anything). Born in New Jersey to immigrant parents, Alex has the privilegio of dreaming in both English and Spanish.

    When she's not writing, painting or chasing chickens around the yard, Alex plans conferences and fundraisers for non-profits. She lives with her family in the semi-wilds of Pennsylvania. You can find Alexandra on Twitter and Instagram at @magpiewrites or on her website, alexandravillasante.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 29, 2019
    Villasante’s engrossing debut about two Salvadoran sisters recently arrived in the U.S. opens with plenty of tension: 17-year-old Marisol is being interviewed about the siblings’ request for asylum. They fled because their father disappeared, their brother was murdered by a fellow gang member, and both Marisol’s and 12-year-old Gabi’s lives were threatened, as well as their mother’s. Eventually, Marisol is offered the opportunity for asylum through participation in an ethically questionable medical trial to help relieve PTSD—by receiving and holding another person’s grief. The grief she takes on belongs to teenage Rey, who is devastated after her twin brother’s death, and to whom Marisol is immediately attracted. The girls bond over an American soap opera that Marisol loved to watch in El Salvador, but as Marisol absorbs Rey’s grief, both the experiment and their relationship unfold in unexpected ways. Though Marisol doesn’t initially reveal that others’ homophobia was a key reason for her persecution in El Salvador, her sexual identity gradually becomes clear to readers, and a closing flashback reveals a deeper truth behind the sisters’ flight. Villasante builds her novel about undocumented immigrants into a suspenseful story with credible relationships, satisfying character development, and elements of science fiction. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, the Irene Goodman Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine Ana Osorio narrates this timely audiobook about the immigrant experience with dashes of teen romance and science fiction. Marisol and her younger sister, Gabi, fled El Salvador for the U.S. after their brother became embroiled in gang violence. Indranie, a U.S. government employee and an immigrant herself, says she will work on getting the girls asylum if Marisol agrees to act as a test subject in a grief-transference experiment. They move in with Rey, the girl whose grief will be transferred to Marisol. As Marisol spends time with Rey to assist with the experiment, a romance begins to develop between the two girls. Osorio, a native Spanish speaker, is equally convincing voicing Marisol and Gabi's Salvadoran accents, Rey's American accent and teenage-girl intonations, and Indranie's Indian accent. S.P. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

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