Author: Aiden Thomas
Narrator: Avi Roque
Publication Date: 01 September 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 13 hours 47 minutes
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
I honestly don’t even know how to start this review without screaming incoherent streams of consciousness about needing to read this book because it was INCREDIBLE.
At the age of 15, the males and females in Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family take part in their quince celebration, where you undergo a ritual to officially join the brujx. Females become brujas, the healers. Males become brujos, the summoners of spirits.
Yadriel is a trans teen boy who is determined to prove to his family and community that he is a “real” brujo. Yadriel accidentally summons the wrong spirit and is stuck with Julian Diaz, school bad boy that Yadriel didn’t know prior to their untimely meeting and that no one realizes is dead.
There’s so much to unpack in this story, and I will not be able to to do it justice in this review, so I am going to just hit some of the highlights with the caveat that y’all need this book.
I loved that this was a powerful coming of age story that centered on three main concepts: acceptance, identity, and love. Yadriel desperately craves acceptance into his family, which made every instance of him being misgendered and dead named even more heartbreaking. We also get to see Yadriel’s journey with the acceptance of himself and his identity and what that means. Julian is an integral part in this, and their conversations surrounding that journey are something that needs to be normalized. When it comes to the part about love, this is so much more than romantic love. There is also familial love and platonic love and the intersectionality between all of them.
This is an #ownvoices story, and the author really dives into the rich culture of the Latinx community in regards to gendered language (and the effect that has on gender identity), Dia de Muertos: the massive celebration (and not the sugar skull stereotype), THE FOOD (omg the food…it made me wish I was back home in New Mexico), the folklore of the brujx, the indigenous history, etc. ALL of it was truly amazing.
The world building and magic in this book was beautifully crafted. I loved that the magic system had a cost, that the price for doing life-saving magic in this book is STEEP. I think that when it comes to magic, one of the biggest retorts is well why can’t you cure cancer or some other ailment, but Thomas brilliantly addresses what the price of doing said magic would be…and not everyone is willing to pay that price.
I’m honestly blown away that this story is a debut novel because ALL of it was amazing. It literally hits you with all the feels up until the very end.
Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing an advanced listening copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.