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The Last Cuentista

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There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra's world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race. Hundreds of years l There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra's world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity's past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether. Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?


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There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra's world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race. Hundreds of years l There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra's world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity's past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether. Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?

30 review for The Last Cuentista

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    This beautiful book is going to blow people's minds. It MATTERS. This beautiful book is going to blow people's minds. It MATTERS.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aimee LaGrandeur

    The Last Cuentista is S T U N N I N G, both as a physical book and as a story. Petra Peña is a young girl who embarks on a journey as humanity’s last hope when Halley’s (sp?) comet officially heads on a collision course with earth. Petra and her family of highly trained scientists are put in status for the 300 year journey, but the some of the monitors who will live out their lives on the ship carrying for those in status form the Collective—a society that evolves physically and erases the histo The Last Cuentista is S T U N N I N G, both as a physical book and as a story. Petra Peña is a young girl who embarks on a journey as humanity’s last hope when Halley’s (sp?) comet officially heads on a collision course with earth. Petra and her family of highly trained scientists are put in status for the 300 year journey, but the some of the monitors who will live out their lives on the ship carrying for those in status form the Collective—a society that evolves physically and erases the history, culture, and stories of humanity. When Petra awake, she finds herself a servant to the collective with only her cuentas to save her and the remaining “relic” (OG) humans. I have not come across too much middle grade sci-fi in my experience as the target demographic for books or as a bookseller (though granted, the genre isn’t my specialty) and this novel is not only another book to contribute to a limited niche, it’s like the freaking crown jewel of the whole genre. The Giver who??? The Last Cuentista deals with the same themes via dystopian fiction, but sprinkles in Mexican folklore to make an argument for storytelling. Petra is a phenomenal protagonist; she’s brave, smart, and she’s got a lot of heart. She preservers through a lot of loss (tbh this book has a pretty solid core of sadness) and ultimately has enough hope and tenacity to bouy the whole god damn human race. The Last Cuentista does an outstanding job at demonstrating that diversity, culture, heritage, language, and stories are all the good bits of humanity. All in all, easily my new favorite middle grade book. For readers 10 and up. Should replace The Giver in the literary cannon/school curriculum for dystopian fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The worst thing you can do to your dystopia is to let it grow stale. After all, the true joy of science fiction is its capacity for variety. Say the term “science fiction” and it conjures up images of robots and space rockets and the like. All fine and good things but the whole point of the genre is to think up things that could be. And what could be is infinite. That’s why it’s so silly when science fiction books for kids get all samey. The sky’s the limit (a silly phrase in this case since a l The worst thing you can do to your dystopia is to let it grow stale. After all, the true joy of science fiction is its capacity for variety. Say the term “science fiction” and it conjures up images of robots and space rockets and the like. All fine and good things but the whole point of the genre is to think up things that could be. And what could be is infinite. That’s why it’s so silly when science fiction books for kids get all samey. The sky’s the limit (a silly phrase in this case since a lot of these books go far beyond the sky but you get what I’m saying). We’ve seen recent strides in middle grade science fiction stories that include non-binary or queer characters, and more than a few have intersectional leanings (the Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl comes immediately to mind). All this is to say that I probably should have been ready for the conjurings out of the brain of Donna Barba Higuera in The Last Cuentista but there’s something to be said for pleasant surprises too. A delicious mix of dystopian fiction, Mexican folklore, and good old-fashioned high drama, this is the kind of science fiction that has the potential to lure in even those people that don’t usually indulge in futuristic fantastical imaginings. Halley’s Comet, man. Who knew it would spell the end of Earth? But when its trajectory got knocked off-course, it ended up headed straight for our planet. Now only three ships holding a scant couple thousand people on each will contain the last of humanity. They’re heading to Sagan, a planet that should be able to support life. The catch? It’ll take three hundred and eighty years to get there. Petra, her little brother Javier, and her mom and dad are some of the lucky ones. They’ll be put to sleep the whole time with recordings connected directly to their brains to teach them everything they’ll need to know when they arrive. But Petra doesn’t want to be a scientist like her parents. She loves her grandmother’s folktales and yearns to be a storyteller too. She expects she’ll be given them to listen to and then arrive into the future full of stories. What she doesn’t expect is that in the intervening three hundred some years a revolution will occur amongst the awake Monitors that are supposed to tend to the sleeping passengers. When she resurfaces, Petra will find that she’s perhaps the only person on the ship with memories of Earth. Because now the ones in charge are people with genetically enhanced transparent skin. People with a singular mind. People who would do anything to keep the knowledge Petra has from getting out. Stephen King once wrote a truly horrifying short story about space travel and a family having to be put asleep for the trip called “The Jaunt”. I guess it affected me more than I thought, particularly because I instantly thought of it in the book’s early moments. That’s when Petra discovers she hasn’t been properly put to sleep and can hear everything going on around her. She worries considerably that she’ll be awake for hundreds of years and frets about what that might do to her sanity. Space travel science fiction for kids is, as I mentioned, generally kept a pretty safe place. Higuera isn’t afraid to inject hers with a little fear. At one point in the tale Petra tells someone the story of la Llorona and you understand how the stories Petra tells and the stories Higuera is telling both require a bit of fear to make their best work. And it is Petra’s storytelling that is her secret gift. With storytelling she can overcome the barbarity of her enemies. She can break through false narratives and plant real ones. And she can ultimately win the day. This book is probably one of the best defenses of storytelling you’ll find in a novel for kids for quite a long time. Of course, there’s a sadness at the core of the book, but I found personal ways around that. I mean, I can’t be the only reader that found out that Petra's parents were dead and gave a sigh of relief. Is that terrible? Killing off the parents is a time-honored tradition in children’s literature and The Last Cuentista is no exception. It’s a little weird, but as an adult reading this book I found myself getting nervous about our main character having to protect her closest family members from the future in which they found themselves. Removing Mom and Dad from the picture frees up a book's hero considerably. Not that Petra doesn’t feel responsible for others, but it does give her ample opportunities to become an active protagonist. Petra, I am sure, would love to be passive. But as passivity is precisely what the “Collective” would want from her, she is forced into a position of planning, strategy, and escape. Some of the best moments of the book are when she puts her plans into action. It’s fun to watch an author think through various contingencies (particularly when they’re contingencies that they themselves imagined). It’s so tricky for a book to be both a standalone success and open to sequels. Higuera walks that line as delicately as she can. This isn’t an ending along the lines of other dystopian children’s classics like The Giver. Higuera knows that short of making this book 500-pages long, the smartest thing is to give it a temporary happy ending. I am dead certain a sequel will come along, but I for one will enjoy the ending spelled out for us here. It’s rooted in hope, one of the book’s many themes, and something we need increasingly in our children’s books these days. So for the kid that likes their science fiction dark with marvelous villains and a strong core message about individuality, storytelling, and hope, I can’t think of a better book to hand over. A dystopia you’ll be happy to dive into deeply. For ages 10 and up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adriana Martinez Figueroa

    The amount of tears and snot I have shed over this book!!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    S.R. Toliver

    Review for Horn Book: When a solar flare knocks Halley’s Comet off course, a small group of citizens are selected to leave Earth and colonize a new planet to ensure humanity’s survival. Once on board, the citizens are put to sleep, suspended in time until they reach the new planet, Sagan, approximately four centuries later. When twelve-year-old Petra Pena wakes up, however, she learns that a cult-like group, The Collective, has taken over the ship, purged citizens who failed to comply, and erase Review for Horn Book: When a solar flare knocks Halley’s Comet off course, a small group of citizens are selected to leave Earth and colonize a new planet to ensure humanity’s survival. Once on board, the citizens are put to sleep, suspended in time until they reach the new planet, Sagan, approximately four centuries later. When twelve-year-old Petra Pena wakes up, however, she learns that a cult-like group, The Collective, has taken over the ship, purged citizens who failed to comply, and erased all memory of Earth or its diverse inhabitants. What’s left of humanity is forced to live their lives in service to The Collective, foregoing individuality and personal need. As an aspiring storyteller and one of the only people who remembers life before The Collective, Petra must rely on her Mexican storytelling heritage to protect the remaining humans from life as Collective drones. She must follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and become a cuentista, using storytelling to save humanity and remind her companions of the histories that were taken from them. Through The Collective, Higuera foregrounds common misguided attempts to eliminate violence and war through the sterilization of humanity. Through Petra, Higuera showcases how cultural memory, familial bonds, and story are essential to the progression of humanity and how cultural difference is indispensable now and in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

    I don't know how to formulate the words to describe how beautiful this book is. This book is about how important it is to not only remember the stories of our ancestors, but to create our own as well. This book is about knowing where you came from and having the free will to decide where you're going. This book is about embracing our differences, flaws and all, because that is what makes us human. Maybe I'm just an emotional person, but it's 4;30AM and I'm crying about how much I love this book I don't know how to formulate the words to describe how beautiful this book is. This book is about how important it is to not only remember the stories of our ancestors, but to create our own as well. This book is about knowing where you came from and having the free will to decide where you're going. This book is about embracing our differences, flaws and all, because that is what makes us human. Maybe I'm just an emotional person, but it's 4;30AM and I'm crying about how much I love this book

  7. 4 out of 5

    books_to_review

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25 🌎 This is a middle grade book about how we should not only remember our ancestors but also create our own future. This book talks so much about how important it is for us to embrace what we have and reach horizons we never though we would reach. This story also sprinkles Mexican folklore, which if you know me then you know I love those stories. ☄️ I honestly don’t have enough words to tell you freaking beautiful and impactful this story was. I don’t think I have ever related to a midd ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25 🌎 This is a middle grade book about how we should not only remember our ancestors but also create our own future. This book talks so much about how important it is for us to embrace what we have and reach horizons we never though we would reach. This story also sprinkles Mexican folklore, which if you know me then you know I love those stories. ☄️ I honestly don’t have enough words to tell you freaking beautiful and impactful this story was. I don’t think I have ever related to a middle grade as much as I did with this one. It’s so beautifully written and is told in such a wonderful way that makes you shed tears after tears. Normally I don’t go for middle grade, and especially not fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian - but holy crap this book took me to a whole different expedition then I was expecting it to be. 🚀 I can happily say I visited the stars and reached new horizons after this book. It was so well written and makes you devour it page by page. I would absolutely love to see this become a must read book for middle graders… sorry The Giver, but you have been replaced. Okay but in all seriousness, this book just impacted me in so many ways. It spoke to my heart and made me realize how important it is to live live and enjoy it. Oh I’ll be holding this book in my heart for so long. Just WOW! ✨ Thank you so much @levinequerido for sending me a free copy in exchange for my honest review. ✨

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Connelly

    Wow, the Last Cuentista was absolutely superb! 10/10, easy. The consistent integration of the folk storytelling element is genius and executed perfectly. Petra is a marvelous main character and she moved me to tears with her heart and devotion and grit. This is one of those rare books that I’d like to erase my brain and read all over again. I honestly haven’t read anything like this especially in the middle reader genre though it seems to me to be teetering more towards the 12 years and up age gro Wow, the Last Cuentista was absolutely superb! 10/10, easy. The consistent integration of the folk storytelling element is genius and executed perfectly. Petra is a marvelous main character and she moved me to tears with her heart and devotion and grit. This is one of those rare books that I’d like to erase my brain and read all over again. I honestly haven’t read anything like this especially in the middle reader genre though it seems to me to be teetering more towards the 12 years and up age group rather than the 8-12 range it’s billed for. I would definitely recommend this to a reader who isn’t quite ready for the content typical in YA but is beginning to advance out of middle-grade fiction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Boyd

    ok. I ATE this book in 3 days with my ears. This was a fantastic audiobook. This book absolutely is one of the middle-grade/YA line crossers which would be as enjoyable for 4th grade up into teen and adult. I can see kids not quite ready for Hunger Games loving this. I also see fans of The Giver enjoying this book. The possibility to talk about so many things in a book club or a classroom exists in this novel. There are a couple of small tiny things that irk me now that I have finished this, but ok. I ATE this book in 3 days with my ears. This was a fantastic audiobook. This book absolutely is one of the middle-grade/YA line crossers which would be as enjoyable for 4th grade up into teen and adult. I can see kids not quite ready for Hunger Games loving this. I also see fans of The Giver enjoying this book. The possibility to talk about so many things in a book club or a classroom exists in this novel. There are a couple of small tiny things that irk me now that I have finished this, but it is in my top 5 for the year across genre and age ranges.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    yo this book went SO FUCKING HARD, gonna blow a lot of tween minds in the way that The Giver did.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Guyor Jowett

    From the opening chapters to the very last word and letter, I found myself engrossed in this novel. Donna Barba Higuera masterfully weaves Mexican folklore into science fiction, sharing a love of family, the importance of story, and a hope in humanity. I could not love this book more.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Clay

    Another terrific offering from Levine Querido, this one a dystopian sci fi middle grade featuring a brave young Latinx storyteller, Petra, determined to carry her grandmother's stories into space for generations to come when disaster strikes earth. Would make a stellar audio. Recommended. Another terrific offering from Levine Querido, this one a dystopian sci fi middle grade featuring a brave young Latinx storyteller, Petra, determined to carry her grandmother's stories into space for generations to come when disaster strikes earth. Would make a stellar audio. Recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Q: “I can’t believe we’re leaving you.” ... “It’s impossible for you to leave me. I’m part of you. You’re taking me and my stories to a new planet and hundreds of years into the future. How lucky I am.” (c) Q: I don’t want to imagine them being so afraid they’d try to hide from something they can’t hide from. Instead, I picture Lita and Tía Berta lying under the red-and-black fringed blanket, drinking coffee with “secret sauce” as they watch the nagual snake come home. “Berta! This isn’t the time to b Q: “I can’t believe we’re leaving you.” ... “It’s impossible for you to leave me. I’m part of you. You’re taking me and my stories to a new planet and hundreds of years into the future. How lucky I am.” (c) Q: I don’t want to imagine them being so afraid they’d try to hide from something they can’t hide from. Instead, I picture Lita and Tía Berta lying under the red-and-black fringed blanket, drinking coffee with “secret sauce” as they watch the nagual snake come home. “Berta! This isn’t the time to be stingy.” Lita would tip the brown glass bottle, pouring rich liquid of the same color into her coffee cup. “I suppose you’re right,” Tía Berta replies. “We won’t have another Christmas to keep this for.” Lita will make an even bigger pour into Tía Berta’s cup. They’ll clink their clay mugs, take a long drink, and lean back shoulder to shoulder against Tía Berta’s one-hundred-year-old pecan tree. This is the story my mind will keep of them. (c) Q: I’m supposed to feel happy my parents were chosen to go to the new planet, Sagan. But I feel like I’ve been given the last glass of water on Earth and I’m just gulping it down while everyone watches. (c) Q:

  14. 4 out of 5

    The BGR

    SCI-FI FOLKLORE WOW! This was amazing. And reading the acknowledgments at the end of the book serves as kind of an epilogue, as a cuento in itself, how many hands to reach in and people it takes to tell a great story. But not just one story; this is a book of stories within stories within stories. So cool! It's like a griot, Mexican style. Appropriate for both a young adult and adult audience. Very well-developed characters, well-researched; It's cool that while I was reading this and got to the c SCI-FI FOLKLORE WOW! This was amazing. And reading the acknowledgments at the end of the book serves as kind of an epilogue, as a cuento in itself, how many hands to reach in and people it takes to tell a great story. But not just one story; this is a book of stories within stories within stories. So cool! It's like a griot, Mexican style. Appropriate for both a young adult and adult audience. Very well-developed characters, well-researched; It's cool that while I was reading this and got to the cuento about Blancaflor, I paused and went to the folktale I just also happened to be reading by Toon Graphics about Blancaflor. I'd never heard of her, and wanted to finish the story before Petra's cuento began about Blanca. The book is so colorful, has so much color both figuratively and literally. The way it wove the dream unreality of the rabbit el Conejo, running, to the waking reality and sudden appearance of white little clear shrimp Voxy was magic in and of itself. (just loved him btw) The Last Cuentista is set in the future, taking place in an even more distant future, reaching always back to the past, to the spiritual and the present, always looking forward to a better future. Just amazing. Great and appropriate ending. *I read a review copy of The Last Cuentista via Edelweiss :-)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cande

    i wish the plot had been a little bit tighter, but the story is so magical, thoughtful and heartbreaking that i can’t not love this book with all my heart. a love letter to storytelling, family and community. a gut-punching scenario with the most hopeful tone. absolutely adored.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bec

    A gorgeous sci-fi story with an emphasis of the importance and irreplaceable nature of traditional oral storytelling. Full review to come.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Schaal

    This one is worth the read. I’m just sad there isn’t more! A little bit of Wall-E, Giver, and Across the Universe.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jake Arlow

    The most beautiful book I read all year (both the physical object and the story). This is a TIMELESS book that I can't wait to read over and over again! The most beautiful book I read all year (both the physical object and the story). This is a TIMELESS book that I can't wait to read over and over again!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    Fabulous. Kinda got a Seveneves vibe. It was awesome from beginning to end

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I was drawn to this book with its dazzling cover art like a moth to a lamp. The story is just as good too. It’s 2061 and Haley’s Comet has gone off course and will hit the Earth. Petra and her brother Javier and her parents have been selected to colonize a new planet, Sagan. They are on the second ship whose passengers are mostly scientists. A first ship has already left with builders and construction personnel and their families. Petra lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and they launch from a site in I was drawn to this book with its dazzling cover art like a moth to a lamp. The story is just as good too. It’s 2061 and Haley’s Comet has gone off course and will hit the Earth. Petra and her brother Javier and her parents have been selected to colonize a new planet, Sagan. They are on the second ship whose passengers are mostly scientists. A first ship has already left with builders and construction personnel and their families. Petra lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and they launch from a site in the Carson National Forest in Colorado. They will be put into stasis and awoken centuries later. That’s the plan. The third ship with the politicians never takes off though. The launch site was breached by protesters. That’s a good thing, right? Petra is awoken from her stasis by some strange looking humans. They have different bodies. Nyla, the Chancellor, introduces herself as the leader of the Collective and addresses her not by name but by an alpha numeric sobriquet. It quickly dawns on Petra that something is not right. And that’s the remainder of the book, a young girl’s valiant struggle to find the truth in an Orwellian like atmosphere. As well as having a love of science Petra is also a cuentista, a storyteller. It’s this storytelling that endears her to her few remaining colleagues. Some great twists and turns as Petra plots to escape and finish what her family started out to do.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mariely

    OMG, this is such a beautiful book! One of my all-time favorites! RTC.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This is a stunner in every sense of the word and I’m honored to be working on it this fall. Incredible, 1000 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Whiting

    Full review text from https://www.granitemedia.org/2021/11/... It’s literally the end of the world: a solar flare has knocked Haley’s Comet into a catastrophic collision course with Earth. But for almost-13-year-old Petra and her family there is an opportunity in the midst of this tragedy: they must leave their grandmother and their home in the New Mexico desert to secretly board an interstellar ship on a mission to colonize a new planet. Petra’s family is chosen as part of the mission because he Full review text from https://www.granitemedia.org/2021/11/... It’s literally the end of the world: a solar flare has knocked Haley’s Comet into a catastrophic collision course with Earth. But for almost-13-year-old Petra and her family there is an opportunity in the midst of this tragedy: they must leave their grandmother and their home in the New Mexico desert to secretly board an interstellar ship on a mission to colonize a new planet. Petra’s family is chosen as part of the mission because her parents are expert scientists with knowledge needed for exploring and terraforming the new planet. They will be put into stasis for the nearly 400 year space journey, and along the way Petra will receive a cognitive learning implant that will make her an expert in botany and geology when she arrives and is brought out of stasis. More than that, though, she also carries within her the Mexican folklore her grandmother shared with her, and the desire to be a storyteller, and preserve the stories of humanity. When she is brought out of stasis, not to her parents but to a future far different and more precarious than what was planned, her stories and Earth memories might be the only hope for saving what is left of humanity. This book launches with a seemingly typical near-future sci-fi premise, but is unique as a middle-grade novel centering the story around a young person’s perspective. The author expertly interweaves Petra’s present predicament with flashbacks to her life on earth before the journey, as well as folklore and tales she learned from her Grandmother, which turn out to be absolutely prescient to her current situation light years from Earth. The book has positive echoes of middle-grade classics like The Giver and the Wrinkle in Time books, but with a contemporary flair, a fresh Mexican American perspective, and perhaps higher stakes for the characters. Beyond being a gripping science fiction adventure, it is filled with topics and situations for tween readers to discuss and think about, which would make it great for a book club or classroom study. Reviewed by Joshua Whiting, Library Media Program, Granite Educational Technology Department Review shared in October 2021 Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars) Interest Level: Grades 5 and Up

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera ; narrated by Frankie Corzo. I downloaded this book quickly and without much thought, knowing I was just about to have a few hours drive and needed to leave right away. I needed something to listen to, and I hoped it would be good. And it was very much so! The description didn’t really sound like my kind of book, but isn’t it so nice to receive an audio ARC of something you may never read otherwise and find out that you need to broaden your horizon The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera ; narrated by Frankie Corzo. I downloaded this book quickly and without much thought, knowing I was just about to have a few hours drive and needed to leave right away. I needed something to listen to, and I hoped it would be good. And it was very much so! The description didn’t really sound like my kind of book, but isn’t it so nice to receive an audio ARC of something you may never read otherwise and find out that you need to broaden your horizons because there is a lot of good stuff out there waiting to be discovered?! So yes, I very much enjoyed The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. It centers around Petra Peña, a teen whose family of four has been a part of the few chosen to be able to leave a futuristic earth about to be destroyed by Halley’s Comet. They are to go to another planet to make a new home. All those chosen are put in some kind of stasis that preserves them and keeps them at their present age. Others will be there to care for them, but they will age normally and not be alive when those in stasis are revived. During this time, their minds will be taught about certain subjects so they will be experts in that area when it is time to make a new life. Though her desire is mainly to be a storyteller, Petra is to be an expert in botany. However, there is a nefarious plan by others behind all this. And there is also a counterplan. Please read to find out these plans, how Petra handles it all, and what happens in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I never felt it was slow. I liked the main character. Despite the science fiction element, Petra seemed like a regular girl that we can relate to. The narrator did a fine job. I zipped through the audiobook, and I thank Libro.fm for the opportunity to read and review this title.

  25. 4 out of 5

    William

    For a bit of context; I'm an old guy with eclectic reading tastes that go back to the golden age of SF and while I do read a lot, I don't read much SF these days. Also, of course, I am way too sophisticated to be caught reading anything close to a YA novel. (He said with a superior sniff.) Yeah, go with that. I do however have a soft spot for folk tales, especially Mexican folklore and the culture. When The Last Cuentista (Donna Barbra Higuera) came to my attention it quickly piqued my interest For a bit of context; I'm an old guy with eclectic reading tastes that go back to the golden age of SF and while I do read a lot, I don't read much SF these days. Also, of course, I am way too sophisticated to be caught reading anything close to a YA novel. (He said with a superior sniff.) Yeah, go with that. I do however have a soft spot for folk tales, especially Mexican folklore and the culture. When The Last Cuentista (Donna Barbra Higuera) came to my attention it quickly piqued my interest and went onto my TBR stack right away. While looking for my next read I came across Cuentista and remembered picking it up and decided, okay, why not? Basically, Petra, a young girl who wants to be a traditional story-teller like her grandmother, is chosen with her family to travel to another planet in order to colonize it and save some of humanity. It seems Earth is about to be destroyed and there is no other choice. Her parent's are scientists and they are loaded on one of three large ships for the four-century voyage. Most of the colonists are kept asleep for the journey, with only a few left awake to tend to the sleepers. Only two of the ships make it off of Earth, contact is cut between the ships, and Petra awakes to find that huge changes have taken place. With huge challenges before her, Petra discovers that her love of story has become the tool that may well save her and her friends and the new planet. There is no re-inventing the wheel here. No totally new concepts are presented, but the handling of the situation by the author, as well as the blending of traditional and evolving folk-tales in an engaging manner all succeed in telling a wonderful yarn. I was left truly wanting to know what comes next, yet pretty well satisfied at the ending. Certainly worth reading if this checks any of your boxes!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Miz Lizzie

    As Halley's Comet is pushed off course and towards Earth, a select few are sent into space to an identified habital planet. Almost 13-year-old Petra Pena, her little brother, and her scientist parents have been selected to travel the several century journey in stasis while Monitors (and their descendants) care for their sleeping pods and the ship. A revolution in conformity happens, however, while they sleep and when Petra is woken up, she seems to be the only one who remembers the true history As Halley's Comet is pushed off course and towards Earth, a select few are sent into space to an identified habital planet. Almost 13-year-old Petra Pena, her little brother, and her scientist parents have been selected to travel the several century journey in stasis while Monitors (and their descendants) care for their sleeping pods and the ship. A revolution in conformity happens, however, while they sleep and when Petra is woken up, she seems to be the only one who remembers the true history and stories of the old world. Some of this is due to convenient plot devices and some of this is due to Petra's following in her grandmother's footsteps as a traditional storyteller. This is a gorgeous beautifully made (sewn binding!) book and a decent enough (if often conveniently plotted) science fiction tale but it is oddly packaged as a YA novel while claiming (largely due to the age and developmental interests of the protagonist) to be a middle-grade children's book. But where it really shines is in the description and presentation of oral storytelling. Most novels I've read that include storytelling tend to claim an oral story is being told and then proceed to present the story in solid literary text for pages and pages and pages. The way Petra (and her grandmother) tell stories in this novel is presented with audience reaction and interaction interspersed with the words. And the way Petra understands how even traditional stories change with the teller and telling as well as the power of stories to shape reality is so beautifuly accurate and insightful that the book is amazing just on that count.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alicia (A Kernel of Nonsense)

    **Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review.** Donna Barba Higuera’s second middle grade novel, The Last Cuentista, is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. Petra Peña and her family are part of the few who have been selected to board a space ship bound for the distant planet of Sagan. With Halley’s Comet on a collision course with Earth, humanity’s only hope is to find a new home. While Petra and those like are incubated for the 380-year jour **Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review.** Donna Barba Higuera’s second middle grade novel, The Last Cuentista, is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. Petra Peña and her family are part of the few who have been selected to board a space ship bound for the distant planet of Sagan. With Halley’s Comet on a collision course with Earth, humanity’s only hope is to find a new home. While Petra and those like are incubated for the 380-year journey, the Monitors are tasked with watching over them. When Petra eventually wakes, she quickly discovers that something has gone terribly awry. The Collective, descendants of the Monitors, is now in control and are bent on eradicating conflict by any means necessary. In their quest to save humanity, they have become inhumane. Differences in appearance or opinion have been eliminated. Every person must serve the Collective. Petra is a strong girl with strong opinions. Molded by her grandmother’s stories, all she’s ever wanted is to be a great storyteller. It is these stories that provide her comfort as she faces off against a foe far more powerful than herself. And it is ultimately the tales she shapes herself that help lead her and others toward a better future. The Last Cuentista is a unique sci-fi, spellbinding and unforgettable. A must read for any middle grade fan.

  28. 4 out of 5

    William Bennett

    [3.5/5] I wanted to love this book, and the opening pages and premise seemed more than promising. Imagine that Halley’s Comet, a benign celestial neighbor for millennia, is thrown off course and is suddenly going to implode Earth like a scene out of Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.” A group of scientists are sent to colonize a new planet, but plans go awry when a subversive collective decides to erase history and memory to prevent by coercion the ruin of humanity. Only one girl retains her memories of [3.5/5] I wanted to love this book, and the opening pages and premise seemed more than promising. Imagine that Halley’s Comet, a benign celestial neighbor for millennia, is thrown off course and is suddenly going to implode Earth like a scene out of Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.” A group of scientists are sent to colonize a new planet, but plans go awry when a subversive collective decides to erase history and memory to prevent by coercion the ruin of humanity. Only one girl retains her memories of Earth, and is determined to preserve what she can so the future will learn from the past. I was excited—but I think the glut of first-person present-tense dystopian narratives has made books like this harder to connect with. I breeze through the stories and don’t feel emotionally invested in the characters as much as I would like. I wanted the story to progress further, too; I wasn’t thrilled with where it ended. I loved the protagonist and the woven-in strands of Mexican folktales and mythology, but the plot ultimately fell flat for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    Science fiction, space travel and Mexican folklore. Halley’s Comet is headed towards Earth (reminiscent of the movie Armageddon), and a few spaceships populated with select personnel are launched to populate a new planet to ensure humanity survives. Passengers are put to sleep, watched by a skeletal crew, until they reach the new planet, Sagan, in about 400 years. However, the Pena family is split up and 12 year-old Petra Pena awakens with her memories intact when they were supposed to be zapped Science fiction, space travel and Mexican folklore. Halley’s Comet is headed towards Earth (reminiscent of the movie Armageddon), and a few spaceships populated with select personnel are launched to populate a new planet to ensure humanity survives. Passengers are put to sleep, watched by a skeletal crew, until they reach the new planet, Sagan, in about 400 years. However, the Pena family is split up and 12 year-old Petra Pena awakens with her memories intact when they were supposed to be zapped. She is now designed Zeta 1, and is supposed to serve The Collective, where individuality is eliminated. Petra gathers allies by telling stories (cuentos) to her peers, which she learned from her Mexican grandmother, as she and others are working to colonize Sagan and remove all obstacles facing The Collective. Her elderly lab partner seems familiar, and ultimately helps Petra's Zeta team and a stowaway escape the ship and a brainwash. Good characters and story. Worth a read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

    THE LAST CUENTISTA is a beautifully written middle-grade/YA sci-fi novel. The story is mostly set in space and starts off in the near distant future. A comet is on route to decimate the earth. Petra Peña’s parents are scientists and their family is one of the few who were chosen to travel to a new planet and carry on the human race. Petra has always wanted to be a storyteller and holds the tales her abuelita told her close to her heart. 300 years later, Petra wakes up to find that she is the onl THE LAST CUENTISTA is a beautifully written middle-grade/YA sci-fi novel. The story is mostly set in space and starts off in the near distant future. A comet is on route to decimate the earth. Petra Peña’s parents are scientists and their family is one of the few who were chosen to travel to a new planet and carry on the human race. Petra has always wanted to be a storyteller and holds the tales her abuelita told her close to her heart. 300 years later, Petra wakes up to find that she is the only one who remembers the earth. During her slumber, the future and anatomy of our species fell into the hands of fanatics whose goal is to erase the “sins” of humanity’s past. This novel completely blew me away and I could not put it down. I hope I can convince some of you to pick it up because it is extraordinary and reads like an adult novel. The concept is so incredibly cool, the world building is fantastic, and the plot is absolutely riveting. Petra is a lovable LatinX heroine and I was completely invested in her story. This is a powerful cautionary tale about the importance of storytelling and how it connects us to our humanity. I cannot wait to see what Donna Barba Higuera comes up with next.

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