Cover of Unearthed, featuring a young woman whose hair is turning into water

About the Book

Title: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Museum Piece
BFF Charm: Destiny’s Child
Talky Talk: Origin(al) Story
Arty Art: Angular and Artistic
Bonus Factors: Family, Aztec Mythology
Anti-Bonus Factor: Racism/Immigration Policies
Relationship Status: Ally

Cover Story: Museum Piece

The young woman on this cover is what some folks would call handsome, instead of beautiful, but regardless, she’s striking. Her angular profile in front of the Aztec-inspired motif makes me think that this is something that belongs in a museum as an ancient example of true beauty.

I don’t get the watery bits, though. (This isn’t an Aqua-person story.) But I like how it seems like it’s flowing upward instead of streaming down. It gives the whole cover a very unusual, dreamlike quality, which works nicely with the story within.

The Deal: 

Jessica Cruz is a young woman who wants a lot from life, but who’s not exactly in a position to take it, lest she and her family be discovered by the U.S. government for their undocumented status. Jessica’s somewhat protected by her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, but the time to renew her paperwork is coming up, and she’s not sure if just going back to Mexico isn’t the best idea for her parents and her.

Jessica struggles with what path to walk, and her decision isn’t made any easier by the fact that two Aztec gods—Chalchiuhtlicue, Goddess of the Jade Skirt, and Tezcatlipoca, God of the Smoking Mirror—are both pushing her in their own direction through her dreams. When her father is detained by ICE, Jessia feels herself slipping in one direction … but she’s not the kind of person who easily admits defeat.

BFF Charm: Destiny’s Child

BFF charm featuring the members of Destiny's Child

Jessica goes through a lot in this book, but she ultimately realizes the power that she has within. She overcomes her (genuine and understandable) fears and figures out her place in her neighborhood and with her family. She’s 100% a survivor and even if I didn’t really think we could be friends—which I do—she’d be deserving of a BFF Charm for her strength alone.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

While in a museum program, Jessica meets a young man named John Stewart—who, although he shares a name with famed The Daily Show host, is not (yet) a character you might know—but the two never go beyond friendship.

Talky Talk: Origin(al) Story

Instead of focusing on Jessica’s eventual story—she’s a Green Lantern—Rivera decided to focus on a time when Jessica was just finding her own way and discovering the power she has within. It’s a timely and powerful story from the eyes of someone who is often forced into the background, for their own safety and livelihood. It’s a great story about a hero who is heroic on her own, not thanks to superpowers.

The only real problem I have is not exactly with the story itself, because perhaps I was looking for something that just didn’t have a place here. I did find myself wondering when the Green Lantern aspects would come into play … and then they never did. Jessica finds a suspiciously green ring that belongs to her father and wears it as a talisman, but it’s more figurative and much less literal than the standard Green Lantern rings.

Arty Art: Angular and Artistic

Page via DC

This is my first experience with Steph C.’s art, but I really don’t think anyone else could have done this story more justice. Not only is Steph a Mexican artist, her style is fascinatingly angular and feels like something you’d see in a museum. And it’s a unique mix of art styles, too; where the characters and action that are in focus are bright and saturated, the backgrounds and background characters are more sketchy and muted in a watercolor or chalk pastels kind of way. It all works so well!

Bonus Factor: Family

7 family members of all ages in a group hug

The three-person Cruz family and their relatives are absolute family goals. They all work together to keep each other safe and their love for each other really shines.

Bonus Factor: Aztec Mythology

They’re a strange element of the story, but I really dug the inclusion of the two Aztec gods and how they served as two points of Jessica’s conscience. (Think an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.) Their scenes are both beautiful and frightening, and they tie well with Jessica’s interest and her cultural background.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Racism/Immigration Policies

cropped view of woman holding carton placard with stop racism sign on red background

The situation Jessica and her family finds themselves in when her father’s detained for his status as an undocumented immigrant is all-too-real and frighteningly so. I have a lot of white privilege, which makes it hard for me to fully understand what they went through. But I do pay attention and therefore have a lot of anger toward U.S. immigration practices. While I could never fully empathize with Jessica, I can sympathize that someone so young is forced to grow up so quickly.

Relationship Status: Ally

I don’t mean to be performative, Book, but I am totally on your side. I don’t think love’s in our future, but I want to help you have a future that you want and deserve.

Literary Matchmaking


E. Lockhart and Manuel Preitano’s Whistle: A New Gotham Hero is another book about a DC heroine who has to first find her inner power before she can rely on super ones.

Nubia: Real One

L.L. McKinney and Robyn Smith’s Nubia: Real One is another story about a DC heroine who faces racism and social inequity.

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed

And Laurie Halse Anderson and Leila del Duca’s Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed features a bit of all of the above.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from DC Comics, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.