book reviews

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Publication Date: August 4th, 2020

Rating: 5/5

Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.

Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . .

Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.


I received this book from netgalley but this does not impact my review which is unbiased. (I’d also like to add that I’m not an ownvoices reader for this so I will not be commenting about the ownvoices representation.)

First of all, I was SO. EXCITED. to get this ARC because I’m a huge fan of mythology related stories and learning about different mythologies is the best! I’ve read a few other RRP books so I went into this thinking it would have that same fun nature as the other RRP books did but oh my goodness I was so surprised when it was actually much darker and creepier than I thought (IN THE BEST WAY)!

Paola is a 12 year old scientist that doesn’t believe in the ghost stories and other folklore her mother is obsessed with. So naturally, her whole world is flipped upside down when she gets sucked into this whole adventure!

I loved reading through Paola’s POV. She is so spunky and fun and stubborn. Plus her science facts thrown in there just made this so fun and engaging to read! I really related to her need to rationalize everything and feeling a bit left out with her friends.

On top of that, the whole story was just so addicting. I think I read this in like two sittings because it was so engrossing! It was equal amounts of magical, spooky and fun! I was definitely stressed for Paola and her friends as they fought Chupacabras and other scary monsters!

On top of that, I loved learning about the different mythological creatures and magic involved! The entire quest was so well done and I know I’m definitely repeating myself here but I cannot emphasize enough how surprised I was and how dark it got! I’d never heard the stories about La Llorona before so I was so creeped out by that as well! Kids were told these stories?! *shudders*

I would recommend this to anyone who wants a dark and spooky adventure, likes random scientific facts to try to rationalize magic, magical chanclas?!, a flashlight that may or may not actually work the way it’s intended, and unlikely pets made extremely unlikely places. If you enjoy friends who will do anything for each other, fierce female characters, fighting monsters and twists and turns, you’ll definitely love this adventure!

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