Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

Review by Patrick R McDonough

The initial response from some readers was polarizing. Some viewed this story as bashing on Chicago due to it focus on the overwhelming amount of violence within the Windy City. That intrigued me as a reader. That intrigued me as a person. I want to listen/read/witness stories that pull intense emotions out of people.


Children is a love letter to fairy tales, the tradition/history of storytelling, and the city she not only loves but lives in. Pelayo is Lauren Medina, our protagonist. That isn’t an educated guess on my part. That comes straight out of Pelayo’s mouth.


If you know Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo, if you read her tweets, if you read her books and poetry collection Into The Forest and All the Way Through, you’ll learn real quick that she is a lot of wonderful things, and all those wonderful things are shielded by a hardened edge to protect her loved ones and herself from the horrible things in the world.


Lauren Medina’s case, finding out who the Pied Piper is, and why he’s coming back, is both haunting and exciting to the heart and imagination. To date, she is the only author I have ever compared to Thomas Harris. In both the fact that their roots are in journalism, covering true crime, and in their writing style. However, with Pelayo being a Puerto Rican woman from Chicago and Harris being a Caucasian man from Tennessee, their writing voices are unique in their own right.


Children isn’t a glorification of violence in a city which does have its share, unfortunately. It’s a spotlight on a real problem. It’s a spotlight on an issue Pelayo wants to end. It’s a recognition in narrative form that makes the heart bleed and the eyes shed tears.


If this book has yet to hit your radar, consider it hit now. More importantly, consider reading this story before its sequel comes out. Pelayo is a voice that will only be amplified as her career grows. This is just the first big book to come out for her inevitably expansive bibliography.

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