Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Review: Chasing the Jaguar

Chasing the Jaguar, by Michele Dominguez Greene, surprised me by blowing not one, but two of my preconceived notions out of the water.

First, Michele Dominguez Greene is a celebrity. And, she's written a damn good, fun novel for young teens.

Second, Dominguez Greene has made Los Angeles a place of magic! I mean, I love LA and consider it my home (though I no longer live there), but it's not very magical in the foresty, fantasy sort of way. At least on the face of it.

15-year-old Martika Galvez thinks she's losing her mind. She has dreams of a burning forest and a jaguar. She begins having visions in the daytime as well, such as when she picks up a bracelet belonging to the daughter of a wealthy man (Ted Colton) whose house her mother cleans. Before long, Martika learns she's not actually crazy--instead she's a curandera, a witch in the Mayan tradition.

Martika's powers lead her straight into the middle of a mystery. The jaguar statue is a stolen Mayan icon and Ted Colton's daughter is kidnapped until the jaguar is delivered to a shady arts dealer. Martika's psychic abilities allow her to feel what Jennifer Colton is experiencing and to hear the call of the jaguar.

The mystery element of Chasing the Jaguar is fun, but what I really liked about the book is the language. Dominguez Greene expertly mixes the Spanish and English into a perfect Angeleno Spanglish. Also, Martika is a great heroine. She's smart, cares about her studies at a magnet school for the gifted (despite the other students who are mostly more privileged than she is), and a good daughter and friend.

Chasing the Jaguar is highly recommended for the 10-15-year-old reader. A big thanks goes out to Tara at Raab Associates for sending me this one.