Surviving Santiago will be a delight for readers this summer!

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Surviving Santiago Miller Lachmann review Critical Blast

I can't deny, my childhood was pretty great.  My parents gave me everything I needed, and a lot of what I asked for.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a spoiled brat, but I was mostly happy.  That said, my teenage years were a bit of a mess.  There were years of ennui and general angst.  Much of it was from a lack of female companionship at a young age.  It took me time to grow into myself and develop enough confidence and personality to get out and meet people.  I grew up in the '80s and early '90s which was a time of huge changes in pop culture and politics.  In my mind, it's every bit as seminal a time as the late '60s.  With her work Surviving Santiago, Lyn Miller-Lachman captured so much of what I know of the time and opened a never seen window to another part of the age.

The setting in Surviving Santiago is vividly portrayed as we follow Tina Aguilar, the protagonist, on her journey to Chile in 1989.  She was born in Chile and as a youth watched as her reporter father ran afoul of the dictatorial Pinochet regime.  She has lived in the United States with her mother, now divorced, for the past eight years.  As Tina's mom embarks on a honeymoon with her new stepfather, she returns to her homeland.  Tina's dad is a drunk crumbling from horrible torture by the government, but he still works in journalism to point out the regime's evils.  Pinochet is only months away from leaving power, yet Santiago is still a very dangerous place for those daring to speak against the dictator.

Don't mistaken these aspects of the story as the focus, this is not a political thriller.  It's actually a story of familial love, coming of age, and a pretty steamy teen romance as well.  The historical aspects serve as a vivid backdrop for the reader.  I love sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure, but there's nothing like the danger felt in well defined historical fiction.  Tina's danger is as engaging as anything felt by recent teen fiction with characters named Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, or a Glader named Thomas.  

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can lend to Ms. Lachman is her brilliant first-person narration for Tina.  The voice rings so true and the storytelling seems so real.  While Lachman did spend time in Chile in the time period this is set, she didn't have adventures like Tina.  She world builds so well you would think this was a diary entry.  Lachman succeeds brilliantly by crafting an entire story so it comes off as true life rather than a simple fictional account.  

Beyond the historical aspects relating to Chile there are also numerous cultural references any American teen of this era would know.  Lachman took me back in time to my youth with her accurate description of late '80s tech and pop culture.  Her usage of a rotary telephone, when the characters needed to make a speedy call in a pinch, was a perfect tension builder.  It reminded me how lucky we are that the telephone has improved exponentially in 25 years.  Lachman also sprinkled in spot-on references to Metallica's Master of Puppets and films like Gorillas in the Mist and Diehard.  Perhaps the target audience won't realize how truly these moments were portrayed, but I certainly did!

This sort of teen fiction doesn't really fall in my typical reading list, yet I enjoyed Surviving Santiago immensely.  Proof that great writing can never be pigeonholed to a specific topic or section of the Dewey Decimal System.  The key demographic for this book is clearly teens, especially girls, yet Lachman's characterizations, plotting, and action were executed spectacularly.  What more could you want for beach reading this summer?

If you want to know more then visit Ms. Lachman on the web at:  You really need to check this title out!  




4.0 / 5.0