Never Look Back

What if fighting your personal demons meant fighting an actual demon? Lilliam Rivera's Never Look Back is a heart-stopping modern-day retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, taking on mental health struggles and cultural identity while also depicting first love and the power of trust.

Summer in the Bronx explodes into myth-level trials for Afro-Latinx 17-year-olds Pheus and Eury, a recent transplant from Puerto Rico. Pheus is a singer and occasional romantic player; Eury is a troubled teen who has been having surreal encounters with a spirit named Ato since her father left the family when she was small. Having survived Hurricane Maria, Eury is having trouble dispelling the guilt and PTSD that came along with it--she believes that it was Ato who caused the hurricane because he was angry Eury wouldn't go to "el Inframundo" (the underworld) with him. Love blooms when Eury and Pheus meet, and together they begin navigating Ato's effect on Eury's life. Pheus initially assumes the "spirit" is a manifestation of Eury's grief and anxiety, but soon the spirit world becomes all too clear to him.

What begins as a contemporary realistic novel shifts rapidly and thrillingly to a full-blown mythological fantasy as Pheus pursues Eury into el Inframundo. Chapters switch between Pheus's and Eury's viewpoints, describing phantasmagorical images of horned demon piglets playing guitar while Pheus sings for his--and Eury's--life, as well as the dreamy but menacing alternate universe in which Eury is partnered with Ato, the spirit of death. Rivera (The Education of Margot Sanchez; Dealing in Dreams) masterfully intertwines ancient and modern lore, leaving readers gasping for breath by the authentic but satisfying conclusion. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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