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Eyes Open

Portugal 1967

Sónia thinks she knows what her future holds. She’ll become a poet, and together she and her artist boyfriend, Zé Miguel, will rise above the government restrictions that shape their lives. The restrictions on what Sónia can do and where she can go without a man’s permission. The restrictions on what music she can enjoy, what books she can read, what questions she can ask.

But when Zé Miguel is arrested for anti-government activities and the restaurant belonging to Sónia’s family is shut down, Sónia’s plans are upended. No longer part of the comfortable middle class, she’s forced to leave school and take a low-paying, grueling, dangerous job. She thought she understood the dark sides of her world, but now she sees suffering she never imagined. Without the protection of her boyfriend or her family, can Sónia find a way to fight for justice?

Beautifully and fluidly written, Miller-Lachmann’s memorable verse novel captures the setting splendidly, dramatizing the abysmal condition of women under the dictatorship. A fine novel for classroom use and independent reading. — Booklist (starred review)

The verse format allows Sónia’s poetic voice to shine, drawing readers into the stark reality she’s dealing with. Although her head can be clouded by wine and soft kisses, she knows her own mind and speaks up … Conveys harshness, beauty — and lingering hope. — Kirkus (starred review)

Employing tightly bound poems, Miller-Lachmann weaves the perils of authoritarianism into the dynamics between Sónia and her family, and highlights Sónia’s activist awakening and the power of protest. — Publishers Weekly

Miller-Lachmann’s free-verse poetry captures the exquisite and the harrowing, the potent longing in romantic moments as well as the physicality in brutal ones… Both the verse format and the intensity of the protagonist’s lived experiences and choices make this story about the power of teenage resistance a page-turner. — Horn Book

Eyes Open is both a revealing, timely glimpse into Portugal’s frighteningly recent history and a passionate, authentically teen portrait in verse of one young woman finding her voice, claiming her power, and writing her way to freedom. — Melanie Crowder, YA author of Audacity and Jumper

Eyes Open highlights a brutal time in Portugal’s recent history through the eyes of a passionate, poetry-loving teen. Sónia’s urgent need to follow her heart leads to clashes with her parents, supervisors, and the secret police of the Salazar dictatorship, but she’s willing to risk everything for love and freedom. This story takes place in Portugal in the 1960s, but it’s just as relevant to young people facing oppression today. Beautifully-written verse perfectly captures this young poet standing up to injustice. A must read! — Kip Wilson, YA author of White Rose and The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin 

Sensuous. Atmospheric. Compelling. You won’t want to put this one down. — Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of the Crank trilogy

Deeply engrossing and moving. Miller-Lachmann is masterful in showing us the heart of a girl who’s finding her voice and the soul of a country in conflict with itself. — Betty G. Lee, author of Gold Mountain

Eyes Open. Carolrhoda Lab, 2024. 352 pp. ISBN 979-8-7656-1011-4, $19.99 (hc). E-book and audiobook also available.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth, 2024

Guides for Education and Readers


Includes Portugal’s 20th century history, discussion questions, literary elements and devices, poetry prompts, and additional classroom activities for middle and high school.


Questions for classroom and book club discussions that explore the characters’ relationships and the choices they make, given the rules governing their lives.