Chapters 7–13

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. relent
    give in, as to influence or pressure
    Dante looked at her with a pained expression for as long as he could, like he was hoping she’d poke holes in her own plan and save him from having to do it, but Pao did her best impression of a stubborn, chin-jutting statue, and eventually he relented.
  2. skulk
    lie in wait or behave in a sneaky and secretive manner
    “So you want to go skulk around the river—which is probably crawling with police and reporters, by the way—and just hope we spot a kidnapper?”
  3. disheveled
    in disarray; extremely disorderly
    She looked more disheveled than Pao had ever seen her.
  4. keen
    express grief verbally
    The rasping Spanish in the other room had stopped, but the green light in the mist continued to intensify, and as it did, a keening sound began to build, raising the hairs on Pao’s arms, grating against her eardrums.
  5. volatile
    evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures
    Pao’s disappointment hit her faster than a rocket reentering the atmosphere, all her hope exploding like a volatile fuel tank.
  6. sentient
    endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness
    Without another word, Marisa, the former queen of the Silver Springs Middle School cafeteria crowd, plunged a foot-long knife into a sentient creature’s chest and smiled.
  7. unprecedented
    novel; having no earlier occurrence
    She knew as much math and science as some high school kids. She knew how things worked, and how to fix them if they stopped working. Admitting she didn’t know wasn’t just difficult for Pao—it was unprecedented.
  8. relinquish
    turn away from; give up
    Relinquishing control was not Pao’s favorite thing to do, but she tried not to keep track of where they’d been, or think about which way they were headed.
  9. fauna
    all the animal life in a particular region or period
    The cacti grew thicker—saguaros giving way to shorter, scrubbier versions Pao didn’t recognize, even after her many units on the local flora and fauna in school.
  10. slaver
    let saliva dribble from the mouth
    The girl was on her back on the ground, scrabbling for a weapon just out of reach, while a hundred-plus pounds of slavering paranormal demon beast stood on top of her, pressing her into the grit.
  11. paranormal
    not in accordance with or able to be explained by science
    The girl was on her back on the ground, scrabbling for a weapon just out of reach, while a hundred-plus pounds of slavering paranormal demon beast stood on top of her, pressing her into the grit.
  12. subdue
    put down by force or intimidation
    Once Silver Hair had tied up the beast's snout, subduing the creature completely, she walked over and looked down at Pao disdainfully, like she was some stupid kid, even though this girl couldn’t have been much older than Pao.
  13. forsake
    leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch
    “When we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship."
  14. plait
    a hairdo formed by braiding or twisting the hair
    Marisa hadn't grown much taller, if at all, but her hair—which had once downright sparkled under the school’s fluorescent lights—was now dull with dust and grit, and had been braided severely in two long plaits.
  15. condescending
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    It wasn’t the same pampered, condescending face of a bully who enjoyed harassing younger kids in the halls.
  16. insinuate
    suggest in an indirect or covert way; give to understand
    During the fight with Ondina, she’d insinuated that the other girl was some kind of ghost, so what did that make Marisa?
  17. regalia
    especially fine or decorative clothing
    Pao hated to admit it, but Marisa was a little bit magnificent as she stood before her and Dante in her patchwork regalia, with her long braids and freckled, no-nonsense face.
  18. aloof
    distant, cold, or detached in manner
    “I’m not a ghost,” Marisa said, her voice aloof and impatient, like she had much more important things to do.
  19. glower
    look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
    Dante glowered. “Why should I trust you if you don’t trust us?" he asked.
  20. disdainfully
    without respect
    “Most of the ahogados are barely sentient,” Naomi said disdainfully. “They don’t know how to plan anything. Someone is sending them."
  21. infinitesimal
    immeasurably small
    This time when Dante looked at Pao, she shook her head infinitesimally.
  22. muse
    reflect deeply on a subject
    “Strange that she didn’t explain its purpose to you...” she mused, but her eyes were narrowed, suspicious.
  23. scrutiny
    the act of examining something closely, as for mistakes
    Pao shifted under her scrutiny, and Dante’s temper flared again.
  24. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    Still, as she walked away, Pao’s apprehension lingered.
  25. gusto
    vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment
    As she sat near the camp’s central bonfire, Pao ate bean stew with the kind of gusto she usually reserved for Señora Mata’s arroz con pollo.
  26. listless
    marked by low spirits; showing no enthusiasm
    Beside her, Dante listlessly stirred his bowl, his eyes troubled as he stared into the flames.
  27. mange
    a skin disease causing inflammation, itching, and hair loss
    The so-called paranormal creatures that had decimated herds of goats back in the nineties were actually just coyotes with a severe case of mange, making them too weak to catch wild predators and forcing them to go after the easier prey of livestock instead. The mange had caused their fur to fall off, leaving dry, scaly patches on their skin, and turning their eyes bloodshot and weary.
  28. fanfare
    a gaudy outward display
    Pao approached Sal with as little fanfare as possible.
  29. cacophony
    loud confusing disagreeable sounds
    The single shriek had quickly become a cacophony of battle sounds, and Pao followed them back toward the center of camp.
  30. scuttle
    move about or proceed hurriedly
    Scuttling toward her was what looked like a human hand, covered in dark brown hair as thick as fur, its exposed fingertips wrinkled like it had been in the bath too long.
  31. reverence
    a feeling of profound respect for someone or something
    She pointed it toward the demon hand and waited for something to happen, recalling the awe with which Naomi had looked at the slipper. And the reverence with which Señora Mata had presented it to her grandson.
  32. formidable
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    But the most amazing thing about the scene in front of her wasn’t the supernatural hand, or her revived friend. It was the weapon he held—a three-foot-long club, narrow at the handle but swelling into a solid mass of formidable, bone-crushing awesome.
  33. bravado
    a swaggering show of courage
    The Niños de la Luz, for all their bravado and battle stations, were in way over their heads.
  34. interloper
    someone who intrudes on the privacy or property of another
    Pao stayed close to Dante as he made his way around the fire’s perimeter, smashing interlopers into that same disgusting goo.
  35. plight
    a situation from which extrication is difficult
    She couldn’t breathe. And the fighting around her was so intense, no one even noticed her plight.
  36. scrabble
    grope, scratch, or feel searchingly
    Pao scrabbled at the hand on her neck, trying to dig her fingernails into its hairy flesh, to fasten her own annoyingly small hands around it and pull it off as her lungs screamed for air.
  37. dissipate
    cause to separate and go in different directions
    Without the pressure on her trachea, the peaceful feeling created by the lack of oxygen dissipated immediately.
  38. ramshackle
    in poor or broken-down condition
    Pao gasped, all the sounds and smells and pains of the battle rushing back like a tidal wave to the ramshackle coastal town of her senses.
  39. smolder
    burn slowly and without a flame
    She was on her back, half on the smoldering couch, half off it, still clutching at her tender throat, every breath like swallowing hot metal.
  40. dispatch
    dispose of rapidly and without delay and efficiently
    A ghost girl Marisa claimed to have dispatched?
Created on December 7, 2020 (updated December 23, 2020)

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