The Last Cuentista

The Last Cuentista cover
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

By Donna Barba Higuera
Levine Querido, 2021
336 pages

Ages 10-13

Petra Peña, 12, her little brother, Javier, and their scientist parents are among those chosen to flee earth in 2061 as the planet faces destruction. In hibernation for 380 years, bound for the distant planet Sagan, they’ll be monitored by multiple generations of caretakers, with Petra and other children hooked up to “cogs” that will download scientific knowledge to their brains. When Petra finally awakens, however, much has gone wrong. There’s no sign of her parents or little brother, and she and the three other kids she’s with are now referred to as the Zeta Unit. They’ve been programmed to serve The Collective, which subsumes individual identity and choice for the greater good. Petra remembers her past because of a glitch in her cog programmed by her first caretaker when he realized The Collective had infiltrated their ship. The three kids comprising the other members of the Zeta Unit remember nothing about who they once were, but at night they all love listening to the traditional Mexican stories Petra tells. The more Petra learns about the Collective and its leader Nyla’s intentions, the more she is determined to escape with her unit—her friends–but the stakes grow even higher when she meets Epsilon 5, an aging scientist who unwittingly reveals the scope of the Collective’s inhumanity. This page-turning work of science fiction explores a classic idea in a compelling story featuring a courageous and quick-thinking young protagonist who embodies the challenge and pain and beauty of being human. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center