BookPage Teen Top Pick, August 2015
Novels- and memoirs-in-verse are always welcome additions to the young adult canon, especially those that show world history through diverse voices. In Enchanted Air, poet Margarita Engle introduces readers to her “Two countries / Two families / Two sets of words” and her own “two selves.” She spends each school year in California with her Ukrainian-Jewish father’s family and summers in Cuba, her mother’s homeland. Together with her grandparents in both countries, she explores nature, admires horses and devours books that fill her mind with tales of heroes and faraway adventures.
Eleven-year-old Margarita’s days are filled with switching between her two worlds and navigating the social politics of middle school—until October 1962, when international events suddenly become personal. American spy planes have found Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, setting off what will become known as the Cuban missile crisis. While the world nervously waits to see if nuclear war is imminent, Margarita finds her dual identities in conflict. As FBI agents question her parents and her American teachers speak of Cuba as the enemy, how can she continue to honor her love of both countries?
The author of Newbery Honor-winning The Surrender Tree once again presents a sensitive, descriptive, free-verse work that blends Cuban history, intergenerational stories and the daily challenges and triumphs of emerging adolescence. If you’re looking for something to read after Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming or Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, Enchanted Air is the book for you.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Margarita Engle on Enchanted Air.