Review: Surviving Santiago

santiagoTitle: Surviving Santiago
Author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: 320
Genre: Historical
Review copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: June 2, 2015

Summary: Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina Aguilar wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to feel comfort and security in America with her mother and her new husband. And it has been eight years since she has last seen her father.

Despite insisting on the visit, Tina’s father spends all his time focused on politics and alcohol rather than connecting with Tina, making his betrayal from the past continue into the present. Tina attracts the attention of a mysterious stranger, but the hairpin turns he takes her on may push her over the edge of truth and discovery.

The tense, final months of the Pinochet regime in 1989 provide the backdrop for author Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s suspenseful tale of the survival and redemption of the Aguilar family, first introduced in the critically acclaimed Gringolandia. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: Tina is conflicted about living with her father. She remembers her papá from childhood. That papá loved his family and spent time with them. He drove his children to school and played with them at the beach. The father she has come to stay with in Santiago is a very different man. Tina knows that his imprisonment and torture caused these deep changes in him, but still, she yearns for that papá from years ago. She resents having to leave her friends and home to come stay with this cold man who doesn’t even know her age and is either working or drunk most of the day. This visit is a chance to heal their relationship, but though he asked her to come, her father doesn’t seem to be making much of an effort.

I enjoyed the first book, Gringolandia, because it gave me a look into the history of Chile. Historical fiction in young adult literature is frequently set during wars or political upheaval, but it’s not often that we see the history of South American countries. It’s not necessary to read Gringolandia to understand and appreciate this sequel/companion, but it would provide a little more background so it’s probably advisable. Both books include history and political intrigue. Gringolandia shows readers what it is like to be an exile, while Surviving Santiago is about Tina coming back to her home country. This might be part of the reason that I found this book lighter. There are certainly plenty of difficulties and danger is lurking, but Tina is on a mission of restoring connections to both family and country. She starts out counting the days until she can get back to the U.S., but she has hope that things will change.

Because Tina’s father is working most of the time, Tina has to fill her days with something or someone. An attractive young man does catch her eye. She doesn’t always make the safest choices in this relationship, but that’s part of why this book works. She’s moving forward in spite of missteps here and there. I found myself cheering for Tina. She speaks her mind on many issues and she’s learning about herself and what she is willing to fight for.

Recommendation: Historical fiction fans should definitely get it soon. Gringolandia was great, but I liked Surviving Santiago even more. Tina is a girl who loves deeply and will not give up on people easily. Readers will enjoy getting to know her while learning a bit about the past.

Extras: Lyn wrote a fantastic guest post for us back in 2013 and there’s a Goodreads giveaway of a hardcover copy going on right now (it ends on Monday, June 1st).