Book Title: The Luis Ortega Survival Club
Author: Sonora Reyes
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity
My rating: 5/5 Stars
From the bestselling author of The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School comes a story in the vein of John Tucker Must Die but tackling serious topics. It’s a revenge story told with nuance, heart, and the possibility of healing.
Ariana Ruiz wants to be noticed. But as an autistic girl who never talks, she goes largely ignored by her peers, despite her bold fashion choices. So when cute, popular Luis starts to pay attention to her, Ari finally feels seen.
Luis’s attention soon turns to something more, and they have sex at a party—while Ari didn’t say no, she definitely didn’t say yes. Before she has a chance to process what happened and decide if she even has the right to be mad at Luis, the rumor mill begins churning—thanks, she’s sure, to Luis’s ex-girlfriend, Shawni. Boys at school now see Ari as an easy target, someone who won’t say no.
Then Ari finds a mysterious note in her locker that eventually leads her to a group of students determined to expose Luis for the predator he is. To her surprise, she finds genuine friendship among the group, including her growing feelings for the very last girl she expected to fall for. But in order to take Luis down, she’ll have to come to terms with the truth of what he did to her that night—and risk everything to see justice done.
The Luis Ortega Survival Club is a book that is equal parts so important and needed, while simultaneously incredibly difficult to read. To anyone who has difficulty reading about sexual assault and r*pe, I would caution you about reading this one. If it is something you can read though, I can’t recommend it enough. This book examines consent, especially when it comes to those who are non-verbal, something I feel hasn’t been discussed nearly enough. It also discusses what someone might be feeling after being assaulted by someone, and how feelings can get muddled and confused. It’s something I think all teens who are able to, need to read, and something that should be taught in school. There are so many important lessons to be learned when reading this book.
First, I want to talk about Ariana’s autism. She doesn’t have an official diagnosis because her parents won’t take her to a doctor, but after a lot of research, she decides that autism fits her and helps her understand herself better. Self-diagnosis is valid and I’m so glad this book included that! There are a lot of reasons why people can’t get a diagnosis, and if a person has done significant research and has decided that self-diagnosing themself helps, then shouldn’t we be glad about that? No one should ever be made to feel less than because they can’t access a diagnosis. There aren’t a lot of examples of self-diagnosis in media, so having this is a great next step.
Additionally, Ari is non-verbal a lot of the times. She calls it selective mutism since she can talk in places she feels comfortable and with those she trusts. A really important part of The Luis Ortega Survival Club is the fact that Ariana is r*ped because she, as her abuser puts it, “can’t say no.” A lot of disabled people are taken advantage of and abused because of this. It’s something that is so real and that happens every day. We need to be talking about it more. Autistic people especially are often taken advantage of because we have trouble reading social cues. A lot of the time, we might not even realize we’re being harassed or assaulted because we misread the situation. This is really dangerous and something abusers tend to take advantage of. Because of this, books like The Luis Ortega Survival Club are super important because they bring awareness about this and help us know what to look for.
I can’t tell you enough how important this book is. Yes, it was hard to read. Ariana goes through a lot in the story, and most of the time, people don’t believe her, even when they’ve witnessed something with their own eyes. It made me so angry, not just because it was happening to her, but because it happens all the time in real life.
That’s not to say that the Luis Ortega Survival Club was all anger and sadness, though. Ari has a group of friends that she grows with during this book that I absolutely loved. Their dynamic wasn’t what you’d expect, but it felt like a safe place in what to them was a chaotic environment. They were able to be there for each other and provide a shoulder to lean on at all times.
Ari also has a romance with one of the other characters. These two warmed my heart so much. They were perfect for reach other, and that character (I don’t want to name in case of spoilers), was so understand and accommodating of Ari’s needs without Ari ever asking her to be.
Additionally, the ending left me with satisfaction and a huge smile on my face. Maybe it’s not the most realistic outcome, but it’s the kind of outcome that I wish we could hope for more often. It’s the justice that Ari and her group of friends deserved.
Truly, I’m so glad that this book exists. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely need to.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Check out my last blog post: Employing Patience (Tour Post & Review)