In The Liars of Mariposa Island, lies and truth swirl together in a dangerous undercurrent. Across two countries and three generations, Jennifer Mathieu masterfully explores how families break, how siblings survive, and all of the ways that love can hold us back and let us go.” —Robin Benway, National Book Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling author of Far from the Tree and Emmy & Oliver
“The Liars of Mariposa Island, with its richly layered exploration of the complicated love and lies that attend familial bonds, reasserts Jennifer Mathieu’s standing as one of young adult fiction’s most skilled storytellers.” —Jeff Zentner, Morris Award–winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days
“In this tenderly told novel with a rich sense of place and time, Jennifer Mathieu unravels one immigrant family's secrets. Thanks to shifting narrative voices, readers grow in compassion for all three characters, flaws and all, and her masterful storytelling invites us to do the same.” —Mitali Perkins, author of You Bring the Distant Near
"Mathieu masterfully invests readers in the characters' origin stories, emotions, and motives. Her descriptions of the various settings over time and space are vivid and pulsating, immersing the audience in the psyches and nostalgia of each narrator." - Booklist, starred review
"Mathieu empathetically delves into thorny questions of identity, trauma, abuse, choices, family bonds, and the lengths people will go to keep a measure of control in their lives. With a touch of romance, this gentle, multilayered novel comes with a dash of the unexpected thanks to the deeply unreliable nature of its narrators." - Kirkus
"An emotional, sensitive, and heartbreaking story about one dysfunctional family’s survival and unhappiness... Quietly powerful." - School Library Journal
"These stories intertwine and reflect one another with luminous intensity; Mathieu makes Caridad’s story as compelling and thorny as that of her children without sacrificing their centrality or letting her off the hook." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Gr 9 Up—The Finney family's carefully constructed world begins to unravel as they struggle to hide dreams, disappointment, and deceptions. Primarily set in 1986 Texas, brother and sister Joaquin and Elena live with their single Cuban refugee mother, Caridad. Controlling, volatile, bitter, and always drinking, Caridad creates a culture of dread, manipulation, and lies. Elena's only escape is babysitting for the Callahans and sneaking off with her new boyfriend, while Joaquin works as a waiter and dreams of finding the strength to break free from his family and leave Mariposa Island. Their difficult home life is contrasted with chapters set in 1950s Cuba, where Caridad lives an easy life full of wealth and love. When she is sent to the United States during the Cuban Revolution, Caridad's life begins to fall apart. Joaquin makes a discovery that pushes them toward the potential for finally being truthful, but the secrets and silence that feel necessary for survival threaten to destroy the small family as they continue to lie to themselves and each other. With chapters from the perspectives of all three main characters, readers gain insight into the depth of lies, isolation, and frustration they all live with. The flawed, secretive, and well-developed characters make up for a plot that sometimes lags. Mathieu, the daughter of a Cuban refugee, spins an emotional, sensitive, and heartbreaking story about one dysfunctional family's survival and unhappiness. VERDICT Quietly powerful, this layered story full of unreliable narrators will appeal to readers of character-driven stories.—Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
A moving historical novel about Texan siblings Elena and Joaquin Finney and their alcoholic, controlling mother, Caridad.
It's 1986, and Elena is excited about the summer, the only time of the year her mother allows her some degree of freedom, as she gets to babysit for the holidaying Callahans. It's the summer after high school graduation for Joaquin, and his future is wide open if only he can find the courage to leave Mariposa Island—and his family—behind. The narrative alternates between Elena and Joaquin in 1986 with flashbacks to Caridad's past as the daughter of wealthy white Cubans living through the Cuban revolution and, later, life as a lonely teen refugee in Texas. Having lost her family, her language, and her history, Caridad struggled to adapt to a new life with a working-class foster family. Meanwhile, in 1986, Joaquin and Elena find different strategies to survive in a household of fear and manipulation. The daughter of a Cuban refugee, Mathieu (Moxie, 2017, etc.) empathetically delves into thorny questions of identity, trauma, abuse, choices, family bonds, and the lengths people will go to keep a measure of control in their lives. With a touch of romance, this gentle, multilayered novel comes with a dash of the unexpected thanks to the deeply unreliable nature of its narrators.
A beautiful portrayal of a Cuban American family during a crossroads summer. (author's note)(Historical fiction. 14-adult)