Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s sophomore novel, How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe, is an emotional rollercoaster of a book. With her poetic storytelling, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland expertly captures readers in a heartfelt journey that is equal parts hilarious and poignant.
As a book that covers several heavier topics, the content warnings include: body shaming, slut shaming, emotional and physical (parental) abuse, ableism, parental death and suicide.
Moon Fuentez has always felt overshadowed by the bright light of her twin sister, Star. While Star is a popular social media influencer, Moon is resigned to being her camerawoman. When Moon takes a job as “merch girl” on an influencer road tour with her sister, she finds herself on a bus touring the country. Her new (and notably attractive) bunkmate Santiago Phillips becomes her new nemesis, and Moon is pretty sure she hates him, and that he hates her back… right? But what if Moon’s destiny as the unloved and unnoticed wallflower, only to remain in her sister’s shadow, is a complete lie?
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s background in poetry comes through in her writing.
The novel is filled with beautiful descriptions and compelling storytelling that draws readers in empathetically. The characters are all well-crafted in a way that is realistically flawed and authentic. The toxic relationships in the book and the struggle to recover from the impact others have had on Moon’s self-image, especially through the lens of her relationship with Star, incite a lot of conflicted emotions.
Elements of magical realism draw out the complicated themes.
I appreciated the mixing of genres within the book and how they contributed to the representation of critical themes. The elements of contemporary romance were refreshingly portrayed by including some magical realism. Vasquez Gilliland expertly balances the lighthearted banter in a (somewhat) enemies to lovers romance with the heaviness of poignant and emotional topics such as trauma and abuse.
In addition to Moon’s conflicted relationship with her sister and abusive mother, the matrilineal family curse known as “La Raíz” ties together the representations of religious trauma and Moon’s difficulties with loving herself as a result. Moon’s fascination with pre-Columbian spirituality, nature, and the origins of things is also used as a means of framing her relationship with her Tía Esperanza in comparison to the abusive relationship she has with her mother.
How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe is a beautifully crafted coming-of-age story about self-acceptance, grief, healing, and the true meaning of love.
A compelling story full of heart that inspires both laughter and tears, How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe is one of the most beautiful and raw, authentic books I have read in a long time.
How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe was published on August 10, 2021.