Whether it’s playing video games, zapping a brownie in the microwave, or getting a drive to the mall, most of 12-year-old Luz’s favourite activities rely on electricity or fossil fuels. But everywhere around her are signs that her habits need to change.
Concerned with the rising price of gas, Luz’s mother tells her she needs to start walking to the mall. City-wide blackouts, fun at first, are becoming a regular occurrence. Her mother tries to explain the principles of sustainability to her, but it’s only when Luz finds out that the price of the cool designer shoes she’s been saving for has doubled that the problem really hits home.
Luz resolves to make a change for the better, starting in her own multi-ethnic community. She rallies her friend Anika and her new neighbour Robert to help realize her vision of transforming a trash-strewn vacant lot into a multi-use park, complete with farmer’s market, playground, and community garden.
Luz is a likeable, spirited heroine, whose name (meaning “light” in Spanish) also provides the story’s central metaphor: the lights literally have to go off before Luz can “see the light.”
The novel only occasionally strikes false notes. One of these is the character Robert, whose furtive behaviour gets Luz and Anika wondering what he’s trying to hide. Robert’s big secret turns out to be that he’s raising rabbits in his backyard. But his embarrassment seems misplaced: after all, what could be more appealing to a couple of tween girls than a hutch full of cuddly rabbits? What’s more, Robert openly displays the “I [HEART] bunnies” T-shirts that he makes himself.
Dávila’s black, white, and sepia-washed illustrations, set inside generously sized panels, manage to be friendly and dynamic with just the right amount of seriousness – a fitting complement to the story.