Chapters 1–6

Paola and her friends love science, astronomy, and the natural world — but when they encounter La Llorona, a ghost from Mexican folklore, they embark on a supernatural adventure.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. banter
    light teasing repartee
    The thought of dogs had her pondering the specifics of certain breeds again, and she was barely aware of Dante and Emma’s banter beside her until it was too late.
  2. magnanimous
    noble and generous in spirit
    He tossed it off his face with a flick of his head, a move he’d learned from the older boys on his soccer team, and Pao was feeling so magnanimous she didn’t even tease him for doing it.
  3. sporadic
    recurring in scattered or unpredictable instances
    Aside from sporadic birthday cards from her father (never with money inside, and only sometimes on her actual birthday), it had been just Pao and her mom for the past eight years.
  4. stickler
    someone who insists on something
    She was (probably unsurprisingly) a stickler about litter. When you had researched the effect of trash on the world’s bodies of water, it felt criminal to leave plastic behind.
  5. detritus
    the remains of something that has been destroyed or finished
    “I'm not allowed to talk about today's obsession anymore,” Pao said under her breath with a resigned look at Dante, who had just reached the can and was tossing their junk-food detritus into it.
  6. rumination
    a calm, lengthy, intent consideration
    Had Pao's ghost ruminations caused her imagination to kick into overdrive?
  7. gild
    decorate with, or as if with, gold leaf or liquid gold
    She and Dante walked away from the lingering glow of the sunset that gilded Emma’s side of town like a blessing.
  8. dilapidated
    in a state of decay, ruin, or deterioration
    After a mile or so, their own dilapidated apartment complex loomed ahead in silhouette.
  9. silhouette
    an outline of a solid object as cast by its shadow
    After a mile or so, their own dilapidated apartment complex loomed ahead in silhouette.
  10. covet
    wish, long, or crave for
    Whenever Dante's abuela caught those kids there, she chased them off with her house slipper, yelling curses in Spanish while they sped away laughing on those low-to-the-ground bikes Pao secretly coveted.
  11. mull
    reflect deeply on a subject
    Pao’s curiosity crackled in the wake of Dante's blush. She wished she could stay outside to mull it over while the evening air cooled around her.
  12. threshold
    the entrance for passing through a room or building
    “In here, mijita!” her mom called from the dining room/kitchen, which only took about five steps to reach in their tiny apartment. Pao pasted on a smile as she crossed the threshold, hoping not to notice any other signs of bad news.
  13. divination
    the art or gift of prophecy by supernatural means
    But of course, her mom didn’t allow clocks anywhere she did divination work. She always said, along with cell phones and microwaves, clocks “messed with the vibe.” Apparently, the ancestors couldn’t get to her through all that “noise."
  14. tincture
    a medicine consisting of an extract in an alcohol solution
    “We ate a lot of junk food this afternoon—I think I feel a stomachache coming on."
    “Let me get you some peppermint tincture!" her mom offered, turning too fast.
  15. emanate
    proceed or issue forth, as from a source
    A green glow emanated from the water, and as she made her way toward it, she saw silhouetted shapes beneath, passing back and forth in a haunting kind of dance.
  16. futile
    producing no result or effect
    Pao was pulled farther toward the water's terrifying depths, her shoes and socks getting soaked as she fought futilely against the hand’s inexorable grip.
  17. inexorable
    impossible to prevent, resist, or stop
    Pao was pulled farther toward the water's terrifying depths, her shoes and socks getting soaked as she fought futilely against the hand’s inexorable grip.
  18. clandestine
    conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
    Pao pulled out the clandestine, taped-together alarm clock that she kept under her bed.
  19. purge
    rid of impurities
    She’d invited curandera friends and other healers to try to purge whatever was haunting Pao, but nothing worked.
  20. mantra
    a commonly repeated word or phrase
    Hypothermia, cold pockets, submerged branches, invisible currents. Pao recited the true dangers of the river like a mantra. They were a mile away, no threat to her in this quiet apartment. Hypothermia, cold pockets...
  21. salve
    a preparation applied externally as a soothing remedy
    Mrs. Chavez had arthritis, and she paid Pao’s mom to ease her pain with tea and salves made from the herbs on the patio.
  22. lieu
    the post or function properly occupied or served by another
    The refrigerator door was plastered with blue Post-it Notes from Mrs. Jacobs, who always brought one with a dollar sign on it in lieu of cash.
  23. sprawling
    spreading out in different directions
    Pao calculated her personal temperature-to-distance-to-motivation ratio and muttered, “Forget it," to the Riverside Palace’s resident sprawling, dusty cactus.
  24. ward off
    repel or turn away
    “That’s no excuse," Pao said, her own brown skin and dark hair glaring at her from the mirror that Señora Mata had hung by the door to ward off bad energy.
  25. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    Through the open window, she could hear his abuela berating him in Spanish.
  26. discreet
    heedful of potential consequences
    “I love you, too, Mom,” Pao said, discreetly wiping lipstick off her cheek.
  27. quell
    overcome or allay
    But food didn’t quell the uneasy feeling in Pao’s stomach.
  28. fanciful
    not based on fact; unreal
    The cop had made a fanciful ghost story out of her straightforward information.
  29. roil
    be agitated
    The tension that had been simmering between Pao and her mom lately overflowed in her brain now, roiling and boiling and bursting into flame.
  30. devoid
    completely wanting or lacking
    Pao glared at the offending object, totally devoid of magical properties.
  31. obscure
    make unclear or less visible
    His face was obscured, blurry even at close range, and when he knelt at the water’s edge, all the bioluminescence seemed to gather in his hands.
  32. dejected
    affected or marked by low spirits
    But Pao was already returning to the living room, dejected.
  33. ebb
    fall away or decline
    Pao’s anger was ebbing, but the toothy thing beneath it stubbornly refused to budge.
  34. bigotry
    intolerance and prejudice
    This guy was all business, with none of the sneering prejudice of the man from the night before, but still Pao didn’t trust him. Bigotry wore a lot of different faces—she knew that well, even though she hadn’t started seventh grade yet.
  35. canvass
    get opinions by asking specific questions
    “We’ve discussed things extensively with Mr. and Mrs. Lockwood, but what we need from you two”—he gestured between Pao and Dante—“is to show us exactly where your meeting place was. We’d like to search the area, and canvass the route between there and the Lockwoods' house to see if anyone saw the girl.”
  36. chastise
    scold or criticize severely
    Señora Mata looked chastisingly at Dante, and Pao could almost hear her thinking that children should be seen and not heard.
  37. nebulous
    lacking definite form or limits
    No one was hurrying enough, and Pao couldn’t reveal the reason for her urgency: The nebulous connection her nightmare had drawn between the figure they’d seen and the Mesa kidnapper.
  38. emphatic
    forceful and definite in expression or action
    “No!” Pao said emphatically. “We all remember what happened to Marisa. We know it’s too dangerous. Emma would never have gone in."
  39. sultry
    characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
    The PlayStation stayed off, and the ceiling fan uselessly stirred the sultry afternoon air.
  40. inane
    devoid of intelligence
    “It’s always the same inane questions,” said the voice again, but there was no one around.
Created on December 7, 2020 (updated December 23, 2020)

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