The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club by Sonora Reyes

The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club by Sonora Reyes – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Consent, justice, bravery, friendship, LGBTQ+.
YA book title: The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club.
YA author: Sonora Reyes.
Genre: Contemporary drama.
Published by: Faber.
ISBN: 9780571374403.
Recommended for children aged: 8-11.
First published: Paperback April 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: KS4 diverse reading lists.

The'Luis Ortega' Survival Club by Sonora Reyes

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Our review:

“I used to think of myself as the Little Mermaid, whose voice was stolen by the sea witch.”

Ariana Ruiz is autistic with “a heavy dose of selective mutism”. She never talks at school and is therefore ignored by both her peers and teachers. When popular (and very cute) Luis Ortega starts to pay attention to her, Ariana is flattered. He doesn’t seem to mind that she never talks back – in fact he says he likes that she’s so quiet.

Ariana is used to be inviable but now she finally feels seen. That’s why going to the party was such a big deal. No one expected her to show up. But Luis is extremely appreciative that she did …

“He didn’t even ask me if I wanted to have sex with him. Just kind of assumed.”

Ariana didn’t say no – but she certainly never said yes, and she now bitterly regrets the evening. Despite promising to keep the events of the party a secret, Luis is quick to start the rumour that Ariana is “easy”, leading to bullying and “slut shaming”.

Mortified and more silent than ever, Ariana discovers an anonymous note in her locker that says simply “Me too.” As the hateful rumours continue to spread, Ariana realises that she is not alone in her treatment at the hands of Luis Ortega. Together with a band of self-confessed misfits, Ariana learns to find her voice and vows to expose Luis and end his predatory behaviour for good.

The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club is a hard-hitting novel for older readers. It deals with some very heavy themes, including sexual harassment, bullying and an “off-the-page” rape. Caution should be taken if such themes may cause distress to readers. Sources of help and support listed are at the back of the book.

The emphasis is very much on survival and strength, as author Sonora Reyes explains:

“I wanted to give my main character the catharsis that comes with naming and shaming her abuser.”

Reyes’s previous novel The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School, was a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ+ Young Adult Fiction. Fans of that first novel will find much to enjoy here, as will new readers who appreciate a well-crafted and sadly all-too-realistic plot.

Ariana’s autism and selective mutism are sensibly and realistically portrayed. They help give nuance to the characterisation that is often lost in high-school drama novels. The friendship group that Ariana forms in the aftermath of her attack is inclusive, genuine and warm, showing that there really is a “tribe” for everyone, where you can be accepted and celebrated for who you are.

Despite its serious subject matter, this is an uplifting novel that celebrates female empowerment and the quest for justice.

The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club is a powerful story of bravery, friendship and standing up for the truth. It will appeal to fans of You Think You Know Me and Moxie.

Many thanks to Faber for the review copy.

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If you like The ‘Luis Ortega’ Survival Club by Sonora Reyes you might also like: our reviews of The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes, Overemotional by David Fenne, Ancient Love Stories by Emily Hauser, I Loved You In Another Life by David Arnold and Growing Up Powerful by Nona Willis Aronowitz.

Browse our list of LGBTQIA+ books for secondary students

About Melanie Dillon

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Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon