Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova

It takes a special person to end up in detention their first week at a new school.

It takes a REALLY special person to accidentally burn down the cafeteria while chasing a fire-breathing chipmunk.

But nothing about Valentina Salazar has ever been “normal.” The Salazars are Guardians, tasked with rescuing the magical creatures who sometimes wander into our world, from grumpy unicorns to flying alpacas to the occasional fire-breathing chipmunk.

When Val’s father is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong, her mother decides it’s time for the family to retire from their life on the road. She buys a house in the suburbs and enrolls Val and her siblings in real school for the first time.

But Val is a Guardian at heart and she can’t give up her calling. So when a mythical egg surfaces on a YouTube video, Val convinces her reluctant siblings to help her find the egg before it hatches and wreaks havoc. But she has some competition: the dreaded monster hunters who’ll stop at nothing to destroy the creature and the Salazar family.

This summer is going to be the most disastrous, surprising, and exhilarating one ever as Valentina Salazar embarks on a rescue mission to save a magical monster before monster hunters find and destroy all that the Salazar family stands for.

Valentina Salazar's life before and after her father's death are parallels to each other. Before her family used to go on adventures acting as Guardians of magical creatures that found their way from their magical world into our own. Now she is stuck in a boring town where nothing happens and at a school where everyone thinks she is weird for believing in magic. Her mom is always away at work, her sister Andromeda is gone, Lola is always busy, and Rome is a recluse. She is the only one who cares about their family's motto "Protect, Valor, Heart." She's the only one who wants to keep up their father's legacy. But everything is complicated when a monster is the one who is responsible for his absence and your sister is a monster hunter too.

Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter was what I was hoping for and more. I instantly had to read this after seeing this cover. It had a lot of heart, a captivating journey, and fantastic characters. Out of everything, the family dynamic is what made this book shine. I didn't know when I got into this that grief would be an aspect of the book but I think it added a necessary layer to get at the root of the Hunters vs. the Guardians. I think all the Salazar siblings were finding their way to deal with their father's death in a realistic way. I loved that Valentina actively tried to keep her family's legacy alive. It's interesting thinking back at how everything unraveled. There were a lot of twists for this middle grade!

Brixy (not sure how to spell her name since I listened to the audiobook) was super adorable. Valentina kept her and has been feeding her sugar because that's what her species eats. She stole candy from Rome, one of the siblings, which I found funny. All of the creatures the siblings came across were creative creations. Valentina always tried to find a way to help the ones that were lost and even those that were seemingly dangerous. If you can't tell I loved her character the best. I enjoyed getting to know her siblings as well and having them share their feelings about their father's passing. 

I would have liked to get to know more about Andromeda or Andy. I feel like her story was just brushed upon. I wish there were even more creatures we got to discover along the way as well. Maybe a second book could be in the works? I mean I would read more. There are lots of potential to explore this world more.

Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter was so much fun and had a lot of heart. I would recommend this for readers who like magical creatures, books centered on family, and adventure stories. 

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