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October 
Our October reads feature characters that display resilience and hope in the face of despair. In I Hope You Get This Message, a group of friends grapple with communications received from an alien planet telling them that Earth will end in seven days. In Fountains of Silence, the terrors of Franco's dictatorship are revealed to a budding young American photojournalist and the Spaniards who struggle daily under harsh rule. But beauty and purpose can be found beyond such dark chapters as these: these titles illuminate the triumphs of humanity. 

-- Alex & All Dieselfolk  
 
New Books We Love This Month
I Hope You Get This Message
by Farah Naz Rishi


I Hope You Get This Message starts off intriguing, becomes exciting, and ends with just as much mystery as it started with. The premise is a bit of a cliché--the end of the world and whatnot--but the story goes in quite a different direction than the hero tales you're used to. Instead, readers get to see the end of times from the perspective of everyday citizens just trying to survive an alien invasion. Whether it's Jesse, a small-town kid with a fair share of emotional trauma, Cate, a teen who never got a chance at a normal life, or Adeem, who's got no motivation and too many goals, each character's story pulls the reader in, anticipating their success, and hoping above all that the human race isn't actually doomed. Rishi delicately weaves together political, environmental, and social issues with lovable sci-fi tropes to create a narrative that is exciting, engaging, thought-provoking, and an all-around enjoyable read. 

-- Rachel Levin

Double Feature! Check out TWO reviews of The Fountains of Silence
The Fountains of Silence
by Ruta Sepetys

Ana works at the Castellana Hilton as a maid to support her family. Can she and her family survive throughout Franco's dictatorship that leaves countless others destitute?

Daniel is the rich son of an oil tycoon staying at the Castellana Hilton, who longs for a future as a photographer. When he begins to put together a disturbing and saddening photojournalism portfolio of what lies beneath Spain's welcoming exterior, will he be able to help Ana's family?

Puri tries to contain her questions. You can't be that curious when you are training to be a nun, after all. However, when she begins to have suspicions that the orphanage she works for is not only for orphans, can she keep her mouth shut?

Rafa has a dream. He is going to help his friend Fugo become a famous bullfighter. This will bring them both fame and will help him support his sisters, Julia and Ana, along with his cousin Puri. But when it is time for the first bullfight, will he be able to help Fugo make an impression beyond the fact that they are both gravediggers?

Julia does not ask questions. She doesn't aspire to be anything other than a seamstress that makes bullfighter's costumes. How can she, with her siblings, husband, and daughter to support?

My favorite part of this book was Daniel's photography. It captured the story in a raw, crystal-clear way, each picture summing up the horrors that occurred in Franco's Spain, alongside the luxury that lay on its surface. 

Sepetys' other books, Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, depict WWII, but instead of the aftermath they show Hitler and Stalin's tyranny during the war. This book, on the other hand, is set directly after in the "war after war under Franco" (as Daniel calls it). Although the characters and setting are different in Sepetys' other books, a similarity that resonates throughout is the beautiful, graceful, and shattering way that they are told.

--Olivia Philips

The Fountains of Silence
by Ruta Sepetys

It’s June, 1957, and postwar Spain is under the harsh regime of dictator Francisco Franco. Although the Spanish people -- especially those with Republican (anti-Francoist) sympathies -- are severely oppressed and steeped in inescapable poverty, the wealthy American tourists lured to Madrid are enamored with the misleading elegance of the country. 

19-year-old Daniel Matheson is one such tourist. The son of a powerful Texan businessman, he knows next to nothing about Spain’s culture. However, Daniel is very different from other blithely oblivious American tourists: he is a budding photojournalist, unafraid to question the world around him. When he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Ana, a Zaragoza-born maid at the famous Castellana-Hilton hotel, he quickly discovers a multitude of shocking, dangerous secrets that Franco is desperate to hide. 

From the first chapter to the last, The Fountains of Silence is sincere and moving. Brilliantly-researched, Sepetys does not glamorize the period. This novel is neither a lighthearted teen romance, nor a gentle depiction of history’s happenings; rather, it’s a brilliant portrayal of the thoughts, feelings and fears of the people affected by the Spanish Civil War. Although the setting of midcentury Madrid is vibrant and well-written, the most important component of the novel is, without a doubt, its characters. Three-dimensional and expressive, each person contributes wonderfully to the story. The narratives of cousins Ana and Purificación are especially stellar. While Ana has feared the Francoist party all her life and is thus naturally secretive and shy, Puri, a proud supporter of the Generalissimo and his political reforms, ends up questioning her family, home and even herself when she discovers one of Spain’s darkest, most confidential horrors. Terrifying and dark, yet ultimately uplifting, The Fountains of Silence is a wonderful read. For not only does it exemplify extreme fear, it also radiates hope. 

--Paisley Kandler

 

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