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Publisher's Summary

"We Set the Dark on Fire burns bright. It will light the way for a new generation of rebels and lovers." (NPR)

"Mejia pens a compelling, gripping story that mirrors real world issues of immigration and equality." (Buzzfeed)

In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s striven for in pursuit of a free Medio - and a chance at a forbidden love?

©2019 Tehlor Kay Mejia (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about We Set the Dark on Fire

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  • Hsin Yao Chou
  • 08-11-2020

Undeveloped story and characters and setting

I’m gonna admit I got halfway through the book and got sick of it real fast.

Too much telling ruins the main character. Dani is taught to be purely cold and logical, becoming a person who is not allowed to cry or get into close physical contact with other people. She has been conditioned for five years to handle emotion. Dani also thinks a lot about her hometown. She had to leave her family to pursue a better life in the name of her family. She would do anything to achieve their idea of happiness for her. This is a great foundation they tell us outright.

Unfortunately, the fact of her schooling becomes jarring real fast because Dani is actually incredibly bad at handling emotions but the story keeps telling us she’s the best at it (she’s top student of her graduating year). Each chapter, this happens around 10 times:

1) [Insert tense moment or a moment that causes general emotion

2) Dani’s hand was trembling but no one could see. Her spine was melting iron in her body. She feels indecision sieze her. She’s scared.

3) Her Primera training tells her it’s improper to feel emotion. Her face goes cold and she becomes one of the 100 faces. She executes what she needs. Afterwards someone comments about her pale her face is.

Copy paste paste paste paste paste and vuala: Dani’s entire inner dialogue. For a girl who spent five years learning to be calm and methodical, she’s on the edge of breaking down in every new situation. Every. One. It’s tiresome and it’s repetitive, as is the way it’s executed. Just cut the fluff and make her act as cold as say she is. Stop telling me how she’s supposed to be and then making her act a completely different way. I’m also gonna point out it makes the story come off as amateur when you go for Cold Edgy and the main character has to Put On Her Mask like 10 times. That’s not a personality. That’s empty writing. Why not explore how the five years of emotional suppression and how it affected her? Being told crying is improper? Coming under scrutiny each time she shows hesitation over a command? My girl has not hugged another human in five years and the one girl she made friends with betrayed her? Explore these! Explore the school curriculum and how it changed her. Actually go into detail about the curriculum that was the center of her life for five years—the same five years she has not seen her parents and her home town. Dani should be such a broken, stilted, awkward girl with touch deprivation and a burning drive to succeed and climb for the sake of her family. Even feeling anything should cause some sort of mental backlash because it would go against everything she was taught and everything her family wanted for her. Do that, and sprinkle in, let’s say, five years of suppressed attraction to the friend who betrayed her (who is the romantic interest of this book by the way). None of this happens. Instead her inner dialogue sounds like an average girl who has to Put On Her Mask. It’s substanceless.

Oh and the world building. It’s actually really interesting! But the execution does not go in-depth. You expect an exploration of how the society would effect men since it’s centered around them. You’d also expect to hear about the different types of marriage relationships that may arise from a polyamorous marriage system. How do things break the mold in different ways? But yeah nothing.

And the rebels. Yeah they were kinda vague and directionless

Overall, the story is flimsy, and so are the rebels, characters, and the world. This story with very little depth, and if you want richness and good writing, you won’t find it here.

2 people found this helpful

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  • gigi
  • 25-03-2021

impeccable performance and writing

Felt like a Latino version of Hunger Games and The Handmaid's Tale. Looking forward to the next book!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • mayo ray
  • 11-01-2021

Great story, cheese writing

The story was very interesting, a good bit predicable, but good. The narrator did a great job with what was given to her. The writing itself was pretty cheesey and at times hard to get through. It's good for exactly what it is, a young adult novel. If had read this as a teenager I'd love. But, reading it as an adult? Not my favorite.

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  • Kendra
  • 12-11-2020

Heartfelt

I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this book but I’m so glad I did. From start to finish there wasn’t a moment that I was bored. So much passion and chaos and beauty amongst these pages. It really tells a story of strength against all odds against you. Love the fluidity of the language throughout this book. Excited to read the next to see what happens with my favorite forbidden loves.

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  • Cris
  • 19-09-2020

“What!?” -Me at the end of this story

The narration was wonderfully expressive. The story itself is...wow! Highly recommend. Will be recommending to every reader/audiobook listener I know. I am SO excited to start the next book!

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  • H. Shockey
  • 03-08-2019

I hope there is a sequel!

Awesome social commentary and a great coming of age queer love story full of wonder and innocence.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • AJ Clayborne
  • 24-07-2019

Great YA Novel

This was a great book. It's a young adult novel set in a quasi 19th century fictional society that actually builds Donald Trump's border wall and explores the class struggle surrounding it.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Qasima Wideman
  • 11-06-2019

delightfully engrossing

perfect for the current political moment, this queer latinx revolutionary spy novel tells a story that weaves together the conflicts of tradition, exploitation, and gendered violence into a story of political intrigue, the struggle to honor the sacrifices of immigrant parents, and love in the most dangerous of places.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Kit
  • 10-06-2019

narration was good, story was ok

The story was just ok. Slightly eyerolling from time to time. The main character didn't feel believable, she was top of her class yet terrible at her job? The story over all felt very contrived and forced.

On the plus side, the narrator was great. I would listen to another book narrated by her 💯. She may be the only reason I finished the book in the first place.

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  • Deborah
  • 23-05-2019

Really wanted to like this

I enjoy young adult and had high expectations. In the end, however, it felt like the author was a beginner and tried to squeeze in a lot of hot topics. The LGBTQ angle seemed manufactured and wasn't remotely necessary to the rebellion plot.

I also found the world building confusing. This is apparently an isolated island nation that is very Latin American where people shop in market places, etc. There is no TV, telephone, internet but they have weapons and automobiles? And I couldn't figure out why the people who live along the shore where they can fish and grow produce were the ones starving.

So in general, this book felt awkward. I imagined it being written by a high school student.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-07-2020

A complex story with many layers

A story that forces you to think about the many rights and wrongs in a complex situation. LGBT+ friendly.

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