Jalisco by Kayden Phoenix

Published: 16 September 2019

Genres: Graphic Novel, Children’s Literature, Adventure, Action, Fiction,

Available as: Paperback


Jalisco focuses on the journey of the main character, Alicia Cuevas, to find her mom after she disappears during a folklorico*. When the police are unwilling to help her and she is unwilling to discontinue her search, she meets a band of Adelitas** who train her to defend herself. She decides to join them and find the leader of the group who kidnapped her mom and other women.

* Folklorico: traditional dances from Mexico

** Adelitas: female soldiers during Mexico’s revolutionary war


I would recommend this graphic novel to children interested in superhero stories who also have a Mexican background. I like that the text has a superhero of colour, the superhero did not have to suddenly possess superhuman abilities in order to be able to save others, and the concept art was included at the end of the text to showcase the process of creating the art. There were three areas in the text that reduced my immersion: the community of Guadalajara, the introduction of unfamiliar words, and the fast pacing of the text.

The first element that confused me was the community. Somehow, the entire community of Guadalajara seemed to know that Alicia was poor even when she went to the bar for the first time. This made it hard to tell later in the story whether characters were refusing to speak to Alicia because of her poverty or because the community members knew speaking about the missing women was not allowed.

The second element that confused me was the lack of background information for readers unfamiliar with Mexico. Earlier in the story, I thought Jalisco is only a type of dance. Later in the story, I find that Jalisco is a state. Hence, while I was reading, I felt I needed a map of Mexico, identifying some of the areas that would be introduced throughout the story. I also felt I needed a glossary. For new and unfamiliar words, I was able to use context clues or find the definition on Google but I would have preferred to have a more culturally-informed definition from the author.

The third element that left me with several questions at the end of the story was the fast pacing.

  • I was not entirely sure why the women were being kidnapped since Rocky’s explanation was interrupted.
  • I was also confused by the character of Malinche. At first, she was identified as a traitor to the country. Then, it seemed she decided to kidnap women because in her childhood, she was teased for having darker skin. This made me question, why did she only kidnap women and not children? Were the female children the only ones that teased her? How does her kidnapping of light-skinned Mexican women relate to her being a traitor to the country?
  • It also seemed that Alicia’s mother’s body randomly appeared after the home of the Adelitas was burnt down.

As someone unfamiliar with Mexico and Mexican culture, I was unable to become fully immersed in the text since I was confused about what was happening. Also, while the text aimed to identify characters as having multiple social identities, I think the plot would have been clearer, especially for children, if it focused on either the social issue of colorism, classism, or patriotism/nationalism as its main conflict.

Overall Rating: 🌕🌖

1.75 – I like the concept

Ending: 🌕🌕 – 2/5

Plot: 🌕🌕 – 2/5

World-building: 🌕- 1/5

Characters: 🌕🌕 – 2/5

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