The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

It’s 2061, and a comet is about to hit Earth, wiping out the world’s population and making the planet inhabitable. Only a privileged few get the opportunity to go to space and live on a new planet. Twelve-year-old Petra Peña and her family are given this rare opportunity because her parents are scientists who will be able to help make the new planet habitable for humans. The catch is that getting to the new planet, Sagan, will take 380 years, so Petra, her brother Javier, her parents, and the many other passengers on the ship will be put in a cryogenic sleep until they reach the new planet. 

When Petra wakes up, she realizes something is wrong immediately. Instead of waking up and seeing her family, she realizes that everyone on the ship is now brainwashed. Her family is gone and the ship is now ruled by The Collective, which is determined to erase all information about and artifacts from Earth. Petra is the only one who remembers Earth and the stories her grandmother told her. To connect to the other kids and to try to get them to wake up from their brainwashing, she tells them stories, also known as cuentas. But doing this is dangerous, and if she gets caught, she could get purged… meaning killed. 

The Last Cuentista won the Newbery Medal this year, and it’s not difficult to see why. In addition to science fiction themes, the themes of family and loss are prevalent. Which parts of this book are devastating, there is also hope. The book is well-written, and the stories that Petra tells are included – and very interesting and relevant to the story! I highly recommend this book to anyone – not just the middle grade aged demographic. 

Darcy Lepore

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
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