The Mystery Woman in Room Three, by Aya de León, is a compelling, fast-paced story set in near-future, climate-changed Florida. The heroines are two Dominican, undocumented high school students — smart, brave, and committed to do the right thing.
The mystery: Who is that frail woman in the Shady Orchards Nursing Home? Is she being held against her will? Is she drugged? As the truth begins to emerge, they team up with Sunrise Movement activists and other young people of conscience. (“Us four teenagers are the only ones who know about a plot to change the course of history.”)
The novel is about more than climate change; it addresses immigration rights, racism, the Green New Deal, and youth activism. But the book is also a meditation on how gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, race, and social class shape young people’s relationships.
The Mystery Woman in Room Three is not published in print, but is currently available for free download at Orion Magazine, a welcome gesture from the always-valuable Orion. In an interview at Orion, author Aya de León describes one of her motives for the book:
I wanted to write a story about winning in the climate crisis. So much of what we call climate fiction takes place in a dystopic future, after human beings have failed to solve the crisis in the current era. I wanted to write a story set in the here and now where people — everyday people, and young women of color in particular — are the heroes that save the day.[Description from Rethinking Schools.]
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