Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza - Review
*I received a copy from TBR Beyond Book Tour via Little Brown Books for Young Readers. All reviews are my own.*
I had the pleasure of reading Laekan Zae Kemp's debut middle-grade novel, Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza. I admit that when I first heard about the book, I wasn't sure if it would be in my wheelhouse. Granted, I am a 30-something-year-old woman. Why would a children's book be in my wheelhouse? After relying on my time working in the Children's Department in the library trying to match kids' curiosities, I didn't know if this were something younglings would be interested in picking up. The chaotic synopsis boasts empaths, owl lady legends, a random ghost best friend, and a supernatural town … it's a lot to grasp. But as I turned the pages in the book, I was in for a pleasant surprise!
"Omega Morales’s family has been practicing magic for centuries in Noche Buena. But over the years, the town's reputation for the supernatural is no longer one the people carry with pride. So Omega’s family keeps to themselves, and in private, they’re Empaths—diviners who can read and manipulate the emotions of people and objects around them. But Omega’s powers don’t quite work, and it leaves her feeling like an outsider in her own family.
When a witch with the power to transform herself into an owl—known in Mexican folklore as La Lechuza—shows up unannounced, Omega, her best friend Clau (who happens to be a ghost), and her cousin Carlitos must conduct a séance under a full moon in order to unravel the mystery of the legend.
Suddenly Omega’s magic begins to change, and the key to understanding her powers is more complicated than she thought. Omega will have to decide what’s more important—trusting the instincts of others or learning to trust in herself."
What I liked most about the story was the lore. I don't know many Mexican folklores, so this was new territory for me. I like how Kemp not only told the legend of La Lechuza, but then she was able to break down the origin of the story and reshape it to her fitting. With most mythologies, we get the same backwash story with minimal twists. Here in OMATLOLL, we get the entire setup for understanding how the lore took shape and what the protagonist did to change it.
Omega and her family are extraordinary people with unique gifts, but you don't get that magical realism unless told because they are so relatable. The Morales clan will remind you of any tight-knit, loving family who protects their own. They also have a big heart with helping hands to those who need it. But sometimes, all the love in the world can't protect you from unwarranted hate and disgust.
I think Kemp wanted to focus on the life of an outsider who just wants to be, and I believe she was able to capture this in Omega. Omega doesn't have many friends besides her cousin and the ghost living in her house. She became reclused after too many side-eyed looks and unanticipated energy absorption (due to her power) from her community. The feeling of being bullied and feeling lonely will change anyone. But the message behind having family love and understanding generational "curses" helped Omega figure out who she is and what her powers can do. It is a well-rounded story that sounds like it will be a series!
Overall I rated this book 4-stars. The synopsis didn't do it justice. Where it made the story sound younger than it is, Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza is an adventurous story for anyone to enjoy. Maybe I'm just late to the party, but I want to see more Spanish bedtime stories in books. I think they can be just as popular as the Asian, Greek, and Norse mythologies. Ms. Kemp, I await the next slot in the series!
Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza debuts on September 27, 2022