Summary: Shine On, Luz Véliz!
In Shine On, Luz Véliz, when Luz has to stop playing soccer after tearing her ACL, she feels a bit lost. No longer a soccer superstar, who is she? Worse still, her dad, who used to share her love for the sport, seems on eggshells around her. Soon though, Luz stumbles upon a new passion: coding, assisted by Mr. Mac, their elderly neighbor next door. But just as she’s finding her feet, a new family member, Solana, comes to stay with them. Solana’s visit upends Liz’s identity even more. But it may just bring more light into her life than she’s ever expected.
Luz is such a strong female character. I liked meeting her family, and I enjoyed the intergenerational friendship between her and Mr. Mac. After being a star soccer player, it was crushing to see an injury change her identity so quickly, much like in Christine Day’s The Sea in Winter (where Maisie had to stop ballet after a bad injury).
As Luz is a beginner coder, we also learn with her the basics of coding (and it’s so much fun!). I know basic HTML but watching Luz learn a new language was so enjoyable to read. Solana speaks poor English, so Luz also has to rekindle her weak Spanish to communicate with her. I liked the parallels between both new languages and got a new appreciation of how language can connect us with others.
Finally, I loved reading about Guatemalan food and the culture as well as watching Luz’s family blend throughout the story. We also learn about gang violence and how immigration policies disfavor Latino immigrants (which reminded me a bit of Sofia Acosta).
Overall: Shine On, Luz Véliz!
Shine On, Luz Véliz is a riveting, heartwarming book about rediscovering your identity, coding, family, and languages. I adored the storytelling in this beautiful story. Rebecca Balcarcel has outdone herself by creating a relatable, strong-willed protagonist trying to find herself after a major life disruption. I loved the Latino culture, Luz and Solana’s relationship, and all the coding with Mr. Mac! Definitely recommend!