This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol's mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber's, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as "an illegal", but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi's, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn't be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn't have been caught crossing the border.
But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She's asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It's a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.
The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.
June 11, 2019
12 and up
Grade 7 & Up
Alexandra Villasante has always loved telling stories--though not always with words. She has a BFA in Painting and an MA in Combined Media (that's art school speak for making work out of anything
). Born in New Jersey to immigrant parents, Alex has the privilegio
of dreaming in both English and Spanish.
When she's not writing, painting or chasing chickens around the yard, Alex plans conferences and fundraisers for non-profits. She lives with her family in the semi-wilds of Pennsylvania. You can find Alexandra on twitter and Instagram at @magpiewrites or on her website, alexandravillasante.com.
Praise for The Grief Keeper:Summer 2019 Kids’ Indie Next List Pick
Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce Kids’ Debuts List Pick
A 2020 Rainbow Book List Pick – Young Adult
A 2020 Lambda Award Winner – Young Adult
A 2022-2023 Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominee (NM)
.” —School Library Journal
“Villasante writes of first love with an authentic voice
, beautifully capturing its nervousness, excitement, and awe. . . A story worth reading
“In her debut, Villasante captures the pressures of internalized racism in immigrants...Will grip readers and provoke empathy
.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Villasante’s novel is for the reader who wants to get down and dirty with the emotional landscape, who wants a romance that is hard-earned and sweetly won. The Grief Keeper...[creates] a realistic yet still hopeful
world seen through the gaze of an intelligent, curious protagonist.” —Shelf Awareness
“[An] engrossing debut
. . . Villasante builds her novel about undocumented immigrants into a suspenseful story
with credible relationships, satisfying character development, and elements of science fiction.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Villasante tackles some interesting issues, especially about power and privilege, in this sci-fi touched tale of contemporary realism. . . the compelling issues
and main character will keep readers absorbed
and give them plenty to discuss.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“With both timeless poignancy
and heartbreaking relevance
, The Grief Keeper
is a stunning exploration of how we love, how pain lives in us, and how we survive. Alexandra Villasante’s gift for writing the deepest emotional truths resonates through every page.” —Anna-Marie McLemore
, author of Wild Beauty
and Blanca & Roja