Marisa de Los Santos is one of my favorite adult writers; I've read all of her books multiple times. A poet, de Los Santos always manages to select the perfect words, so I was eager to see how that would translate to her first middle grade novel, Saving Lucas Biggs. This book, written with her husband David Teague, was a satisfying page turner.
It was a bold choice to go from adult contemporary fiction to a middle grade time travel novel. Margaret's family has the "quirk" that they are able to go back in time, but they have all sworn never to do so. But when her father is sentenced to death for a murder he didn't commit, she must use this quirk to change the past to save his life. Going back to the 1938 mining community where her best friend's Grandpa Joshua grew up, she must convince 13 year old Josh to help her before she runs out of time.
It was fun to see how de Los Santos transitioned her writing to a lower level. Her trademarks shine through: she always uses the word "reconnoiter", in this case, she defines it for the reader. The language is stripped down a bit, but still gorgeous and poignant: "Charlie and I hadn't spent one second of our lives without parents who loved us. We lived inside that love the way we loved inside our own bodies, without thinking about it, and definitely without thinking what it would be like to live without it." And it wouldn't be de Los Santos without some impressive food descriptions, like caramelized banana pancakes with maple syrup and peach pancakes with creme fraiche. Saving Lucas Biggs solidified my belief that I will love anything she writes.
Parents often ask me for "innocent" books to recommend to their children, and this novel is a perfect example. It has lots of good lessons about peace, friendship, and doing the right thing, without being preachy. I can't wait to see what's next for Marisa de Los Santos.