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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

We Set the Dark on Fire

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Author/Publisher/Website: Mejia, T. K.
Copyright: 2019
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: May/2019
Submitting suppliers/Website: Not Available
Primary Identifier: 9780062691316
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 7-11
(View recommended grades and subjects) English Language Arts

Resource Description

Seventeen-year-old Daniela is at the top of her class at her school that trains girls to be wives of rich men—who each take two wives—and when she graduates she is purchased as the premier wife for the son of the highest ranking family. But, when a resistance group fighting against the ruling class discovers that Dani comes from the wrong side of the tracks, they blackmail her into spying for them and as she learns more about her husband’s role in suppressing the poor she becomes a true member of the resistance. This suspenseful dystopian novel deals with issues of class distinctions, stereotypical women’s roles and rights, and subjugation, which could initiate engaging discussions.


Does the resource support BC curriculum?
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Creative Thinking
Critical thinking
Positive Personal and Cultural Identity
Personal Awareness and Responsibility
Social Responsibility
The novel supports all of the Big Ideas from the ELA curriculum. As this is a text in which the protagonist is struggling with information and decision-making, the Big Ideas such as "Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens" and "Exploring and sharing multiple perspectives extends our thinking" can apply specifically to the character in addition to being an outcome for students as they explore the text.


Gender Roles, Identity & Sexual Orientation:
The novel centers around a fractured society: the more privileged families pay a school that trains girls to be good wives--two wives for each of their sons. The school gets a portion of the marriage fee, and the girls' families get the rest. The wives are dubbed Primera and Seguna and serve very distinct roles. The Primera is the logical one who is primarily in charge of the household and practical social matters while the Segunda is prized for her more physical qualities.
The novel pulls in a number of Spanish terms, but the nature of the society is not an accurate representation of a specifically Spanish or Latin culture.
Belief System:
The society is centered on two deities: the Sun God and the Salt God. An origin story at the beginning of the novel establishes how a quarrel between the two of them has resulted in the society's current form. Characters reference the gods on occasion throughout the book. Polygamy is practiced in the novel.
Socio Economic:
The society is facing an uprising of the lower classes. In connection with the origin story of the gods, a wall was placed to divide the nation and those who live on the outside of the wall (as well as those who live close to the wall on the inside) are struggling to live while the upper classes live in excess.
Issues of violence are connected with the sociopolitical uprising: soldiers fire on protesters, there is a riot in the marketplace and people are burned alive, someone is shot, there is a car bomb killing two people. Violence is also alluded to regarding the disappearance of people opposing the government.
The protagonist's husband is on track to become president while she is a secret resistance member. She learns that her husband is going behind the back of the government to intern resistance members. The fact that the girls are teenagers when they are purchased from the school brings up the issue of child brides.
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Social Considerations Comments:
While the social considerations seem to be extensive, they are a natural consequence of the dystopian society being portrayed. The conversations teachers and students would be able to engage in regarding the issues that these considerations would initiate could be highly engaging.


Is the resource engaging?
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
This resource supports the characteristics of Aboriginal worldviews and perspectives:
Connectedness and Relationship
Awareness of History
Emphasis on Identity
Language and Culture
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Does the resource provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Is the level of detail appropriate?
Is the content of particular interest to male students?
Is the content of particular interest to female students?
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
As the novel focuses on the experience of women in this patriarchal society, it seems that female students would resonate with the ideas more so than male students. In all other areas, this is an engaging read in a traditional novel format, and it is free of images.


Does the resource make effective use of the medium?
Is the resource easy to use?
Is the use of font, text size and presentation uniform?
Are extraneous elements/illustrations kept to a minimum?
The only area where the text utilizes different fonts is at the beginning of each chapter where there is a quote from the Medio School for Girls Handbook, 14th edition. The quotes provide a thematic connection to each chapter, and do not distract or detract. Otherwise, this is a traditional novel.


Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Plot description:
Daniela Vargas is the top student in her school. She is training to be a Primeria: one of two wives a man in high society will eventually have. Upon graduation she is purchased by the highest ranking family in the society and begins her life in her new husband's home. Unfortunately for Dani, the secret of her true birth is used by a resistance group called La Voz to blackmail her into spying for them. As Dani learns more about her husband and his role in harming people who are rising up against him, she becomes more invested in being a true member of La Voz. Complicating things are Dani's feelings for Carmen, the Segunda in her household - Carmen is much more than Dani first assumed.
Related Comments:
The novel is told from a third person, limited omniscient point of view which is effective in establishing and maintaining the suspense and conflict. The story, while told clearly, does not have any strong literary components connected to language, although the story structure and presentation of characters provide substance to analyze. The story is dystopian, including elements of fantasy and adventure in a seemingly contemporary world.
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Well-developed themes
Point of view


At intended grade level(s)


The novel could be used as a traditional class novel study or in conjunction with a comparative study of dystopian texts. Such a unit could be focused on the protagonist as the instrument of change, or an examination of various political systems that rely on subjugation. As the novel tends to focus on a society that places harsh and stereotypical views on women and their roles and functions in society, this could be considered a feminist text as well.