Mayan December

by Brenda Cooper

Reviewed by Adria Laycraft

Archeoastronomer Dr. Alice Cameron and her tween daughter Nixie are on-site in Mexico for the grand event of December 2012. And while Alice must tend to the demands of her work, Nixie begins an adventure that will lead her mother--and many more Very Important People--to see their world from a whole new perspective.

Mayan December is an excellent portrayal of both modern and ancient Mayan culture. Written by award-winning author Brenda Cooper and published by Prime Books, this is a delightful look at the end-of-the-world myth and what it might mean for those in the past and in our current times. It is also a wonderful depiction of the mother-daughter relationship at a time when the child's independence is straining the bonds of maternal protection. And while it might take a few chapters to become fully absorbed, the wait is well worth it.

Cooper definitely did her homework on this one, with accurate descriptions of modern-day Yucatán resorts and ancient ruins, and dead-on portrayals of customs, beliefs, clothing, and Mayan cities of the past. Xcaret, Tulum, Cancún, and Chichén Itzá are all described in perfect detail, a true delight for the reader who has been there and a vicarious vacation for those who have not.

I especially enjoyed the current-day Mayan characters. They are believable, accurate, and loveable, just as the rest of the cast is. The reader is able to understand the relationships and motivations of each character, especially the one between widowed mother and pre-teen daughter. It didn't take long to really care about all the people involved and wonder where (or when) their adventure would take them.

The climactic ending, I feel, tried to do too much all in one go, with world politics, scientific discovery, and mysticism all overriding the individual characters' story arcs. I wondered which ending meant the most to the author, and wished she had focused on the more personal, with maybe only one big picture plot intruding. In fact, the idea of some 'code' falling from the sky awaiting translation from math geeks the world over didn't seem a relevant part of the story at all, and ended up with a sense of being tagged on without any set-up of the idea earlier on in the story.

Despite this small nitpick, I enjoyed the high adventure and honest danger all the characters faced as the boundaries between their timelines grew thin, and I did find the conclusion satisfying. I believe this is because all the characters are well drawn, eminently likeable, and quite believable. For anyone interested in the Maya and their homeland, especially younger readers in their teens, this is a must read.