I’ve had this on my TBR stack for a while; it’s such a beautifully-designed little volume. Thankfully the book itself measures up. The emotional terrain of Costalegre is very rich, but I also found it quite funny: the cast of characters is very strange, perhaps even more so because they’re filtered through a fifteen-year-old narrator. I liked how Lara’s life is set in a very tiny spot in Mexico, with stakes that are fairly low when stacked against, well, the global war brewing in Europe.
Coming-of-age novels give writers lots of latitude: you can touch lightly on big themes (the rise of Hitler and WWII, in this case) obliquely because your protagonist doesn’t quite grasp everything. Maum doesn’t dismiss Lara’s concerns just because they’re small, though—in the telling, Lara’s desire for love is just as crucial as what is playing out far from Mexico.