Book Reviews

Review: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

The Grief Keeper is one of those books I’ve had on my shelf for a while. And the Backlist Bookworms chose it so I was overjoyed. What a book! It’s a story about exploitation, love, and family. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.


TW: homophobia, suicide attempt of a SC

My first favorite element of The Grief Keeper has to be the way it centers around the medical exploitation of the marginalized. The way Marisol is chosen outside of the legal processes because of how desperate she is to stay in the US. To escape the gang violence which killed her brother. And Villasante never lets us forget it as Marisol is left with many other options and must rely on their good graces. But what quickly became my favorite element is how The Grief Keeper navigates grief and loss.

How it asks us what value we see in our grief. Because to most of the adults in The Grief Keeper, grief is seen as a negative emotion – something to remove. And The Grief Keeper explores this idea of the importance of grief. How we experience grief differently based on our privilege and identity. Not only that, but also in its opposites, it examines the process of healing. Additionally it clearly examines the idea of ‘necessary sacrifices’ and what we will do for our own benefit. Overall, The Grief Keeper is just such a fantastic book which explores so much of these themes.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

And I haven’t even talked about how much I adored the central sister relationship. The ways there’s resentment, love, and barbs. Additionally the entire queer storyline was so fantastic – major cute moments – but I also love how it allows Marisol to question and delve into her own past. The Grief Keeper is emotional – but I’m sure you expected that – and is a testament to resilience, grief and healing, and love. Find The Grief Keeper on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite queer POC fantasy?

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.