Reviewed by Lila Quintero Weaver
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK:
What if you could control destiny?
Cassie Arroyo’s world is ripped apart when her father vanishes. What could anyone possibly want with a middle-aged art history professor? But there’s no doubt that he’s being chased by a dangerous organization called the Hastati—and Cassie is their next target.
Cassie learns that she is a descendant of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny: an object that in the right hands can shape the future, and in the wrong hands destroy it. But the spear has been missing for years. It seems that the Hastati will do whatever it takes to control it—and if they can’t find the spear itself, they’ll go after the ones who can use it.
On the run, with only her best friend, Simone, to help her, Cassie must stay one step ahead of the Hastati as she tries to decipher the clues that will lead her to the spear. Her life—and the fate of the world—depend on it.
MY TWO CENTS: Moving Target is a middle-grade fantasy thriller starring Cassie Arroyo, a Cuban-American expatriate living in Italy. It’s the first in a series, with the sequel scheduled to release next fall. The plot rides on the journey of three teen characters: Cassie, her friend Simone, and Asher. Asher is the nephew of Brother Gregorio, the monastic figure who provides shelter to Cassie after her father is struck by a hail of bullets, whisked off to surgery, and then vanishes, as far as his daughter can tell. When Cassie discovers that she, not her father, is the main target of the assassins, she teams up with Asher and Simone to recapture the Spear of Destiny, a medieval artifact mysteriously linked to Cassie’s family line and the reason that her formerly blasé life at a private school is shattered overnight. In their quest, the kids must decode cryptic clues, navigate secret tunnels, hitch rides with sketchy characters, and elude menaces by the dozens, including the lurking possibility of betrayal from people entrusted with their care.
The setting for Moving Target is Rome and its surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect backdrop for a contemporary story with ancient implications, one that pairs narrow alleyways with Vespas, and Italian Renaissance art with cell-phone-dependent teenagers—not to mention gun-toting assassins. These combinations feel familiar and cinematic, since many of us have acquired such mental images from the world of high-adventure movies. Christina Diaz Gonzalez seems comfortable in the realm of taut intrigue. Her previous novels capture similarly tense life-and-death stories set against vivid backdrops. The Red Umbrella takes place in revolution-era Cuba, with threats encroaching on the main character’s family before and after she and her brother escape to the United States, courtesy of the Pedro Pan airlift. In A Thunderous Whisper, the plot bristles with espionage and mortal danger: the main character’s father fights in the Spanish Civil War, and the family loses everything in the Nazi bombing of Guernica, their hometown. The intensity remains in Moving Target, but here the author replaces history with fantasy, drawing liberally on religious iconography, mythology and elements of the supernatural.
Cassie Arroyo may be Latina, but as a plot-driven novel, Moving Target’s focus is on adventurous twists and turns. Cassie’s ethnicity remains mostly in the background, although Spanish dialogue and cultural references do occasionally find their way into the picture. In the thriller genre, where protagonists tend to be Anglo by default—as pointed out by Matt de la Peña in a comment published on CNN’s website—books like Moving Target help to normalize the presence of Latina characters in all types of stories, even fantasy thrillers. This is something to applaud.
Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book and the International Literacy Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award. She speaks to students across the country about writing, the importance of telling their stories and the value of recognizing that there is a hero in each one of us. Visit her website at www.christinagonzalez.com for further information.
Check out Christina’s recent guest post for this blog’s Cuban series here.
Lila Quintero Weaver is the author-illustrator of Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Darkroom recounts her family’s immigrant experience in small-town Alabama during the tumultuous 1960s. It is her first major publication. Lila is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Paul, are the parents of three grown children. She can also be found on her own website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.