What’s in the sociocultural water inspiring all these queer YA ghost stories lately?
Yadriel is a brujo, born into a powerful family of Latinx witches in East LA. The problem is, no-one believes him. Yads is also a gay trans boy and his community’s magic is gendered–therefore everyone insists he’s actually a bruja. His struggles to prove himself a man lead him to accidentally call up the ghost of a cute boy from school, discover a dark magic conspiracy, and face down saints and deities man-to-man.
This book is a triumph of representation. The author is a non-binary trans Latinx person themselves, and Latinx LGBTQIA youth take center stage in the story honestly and vulnerably. I’m sure there are people feeling seen through these characters. There’s a lot of cultural pride on display as well, although it bounces between strongly Mexican-American elements to a slightly confusing pan-Latinx-American identity that blurs tradition and language. (For example, I was a bit surprised to see a half-Haitian brujx family but no Dominicans. I get the sense that many of these characters are probably based on real people the author knows, but there were still cultural moments that didn’t mesh and missing elements, IMO.) A lot of important themes are worked into the story and there’s a strong sense of cultural reclamation through the descriptions of family, brujeria and Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. Also, I’ve followed the writer on Twitter for ages and they seem like a remarkably lovely, culturally sensitive person.
I hope all of that cancels out the bad review karma I’m going to earn with the rest of this post. There’s a lot of Moments of Awesome in this story, but the book just didn’t gel for me. Something about the proclamatory culture/gender infodumps, the red flag first boyfriend romance, and the overall writing just left me cold. I thought at first it was because I’m not the target audience and was missing context, so I reached out to a well-read Mexican LGBTQ community friend to chat about some of my thoughts. I even sent him a few pages to preview and got back the following terse response, shared with permission:
“The f*ck are you making me read?! Twilight for Mexicans?”
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