Playing for the Devil’s Fire by Phillippe Diederich

Reviewed by Kelsey (Library Staff)

Playing for the Devil’s Fire is the bittersweet journey of a boy coming of age in a small Mexican town broken by drugs, crime, and corruption. This fictional book focuses on 13-year-old Boli’s experiences as his small pueblo is plagued by the Mexican cartel. The story begins with Boli and his friends playing an innocent game of marbles when a severed head shows up in the town plaza. This is just the beginning and soon cars driven by men in flashy clothes arrive, poor neighbors begin turning up with brand-new SUVs, and more bodies begin to appear. Boli’s parents leave for Toluca to get help from the federal police but never arrive at their destination. No one wants to talk about it or do anything to make a change, but Boli has hope that help will come. It does, in the form a masked wrestler who shows up and bans together with Boli in an attempt to save lives, bring back the missing, and stop the town’s destruction. But what hope do a boy and a luchador have against a growing cartel?
Diederich has traveled extensively through Mexico witnessing many tragedies of the Drug Wars, which gives this book a realistic perspective. This book is an attention grabber, full of shocking and grim violence, and is not for the lighthearted. It is a story of corruption and hope, loss and resilience, with an ending that leaves you heartbroken, but with the knowledge that goodness still exists even in the worst of scenarios.

Available through Bridges Library System

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