The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

Book Review: The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

Rating: 2/5

What It’s About:

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?


What I liked

The main things that first drew me to The Last Cuentista were the Latino culture, storytelling, and familial bonds. And those turned out to be the parts I liked most about the book. I loved how the author portrayed the relationship between Petra and her grandmother. I was reminded of my own grandmother and it made me feel the soft and fuzzy feelings of the sweet bond that can exist between a grandparent and grandchild.

Another thing that struck me the most was the concept of storytelling as an important part of continuing knowledge over time and preserving one’s culture. The juxtaposition of storytelling, an ancient method of passing on information, and the futuristic element of space and searching for opportunities of new civilization on a new planet was interesting. And the fact that this book used Mexican folklore and culture was alot of fun for me to read.

What I didn’t like

While there were some parts that I loved, I really struggled to like this book as a whole for a couple of different reasons. This middle grade book is the 2022 Newbury award winner and a Pura Belpré Author award winner, which made me have high hopes and expectations. Even though the relationships between the characters were great, Petra’s character was hard for me to get behind as the protagonist of the story. I felt like her character didn’t have much depth and some of her actions seemed to contradict her beliefs. The supporting characters and antagonists were also very one dimensional and didn’t feel much connection to them either.

I loved all of the flashback scenes/memories of Petra’s life before she went to space, but everything that happened while she was one the ship and the new planet just was bleh. I constantly got the feeling that I was reading a story that I had already read before. And I’ve only read a handful of sci-fi books in my entire life. The ending was also let down. I didn’t feel any kind of closure. It just felt like so much was missing.

Final Thoughts

Looking at Goodreads, I belong in the smaller population of readers who didn’t like the book. But there is a huge number of readers who just loved this book. Maybe I had a hard time with it since the book is for middle grade readers…I just don’t know. If The Last Cuentista sounds like your type of book, then you should give it a try. Like I mentioned earlier, there were many parts that I loved but maybe I let all the award hype get into my head.

If you’d like to find more books with Latino characters and authors, visit my Latino Book List.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.



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