Thank you for the rec, Mobius_Walker!
My thought while reading this was omg this would make an AMAZING Pixar movie. And then I was like, too bad we already have Coco. And then I was like HOLD UP, WAIT A SECOND, THAT’S SOME INGRAINED THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE-ISM SPEAKING.
I stand by my original thought. This movie would make for an INCREDIBLE animated movie, specifically, because when you’re in the realm of animation you can really imbue a world with realism while not being saddled with CGI that may/may not look cheesy (and, more often than not, doesn’t age well).
I’ll get my critiques out of the way first. The book starts somewhat clunkily, with lots of character setting. We have to be told that Yadriel’s family are Unsure About This Trans Thing. We have to be told that Maritza is against being a Bruja because of the Vegan Thing. We have to be told about the significance of the quince/brujx ceremony, so that we know it’s a Big Deal. All of the backstory and history and rituals of the brujx community has to be relayed to us, so that we know what we’re dealing with by the time that the real “plot” starts. As a result, when it does (i.e. when Yadriel goes with Martiza to the church of Lady Death to do the quince ceremony and summons Julian) the pacing is a bit jarring in a way that I tend to associate with debut novels and YA novels–if “real literature” goes way too far in the direction of “show, don’t tell,” I feel like YA falls too far into the trap of “tell, don’t show.” We’re always given the thoughts of our characters, even if we could infer them via actions or reactions.
My second critique my usual one, not really a spoiler but [anytime young’uns fall in LOVE within days and then throw out all reason for their LOVE I’m like, calm down and stay in school].
But! Once we are clicking away with the Weekend at Herman’s (slant rhyme?) plotline, everything starts working so well I felt like Thomas was, like me, basically trying to finish with the info dump so they could get to the good stuff. Julian is what every manic-pixie-dream-character-writing-hack-screenwriter is trying to do. He is vivacious and lively but because of proper characterization, not because of plot contrivances. Matriza is the character every every #girlboss #thefutureisfemale tagging performative feminist is trying to craft, a confident, secure girl who has a tendency to yell but who does so in a way that makes her into a proper flawed whole. And Yadriel just carries the whole thing on his shoulders, reacting badly to stress even when it’s inconvenient for the plot, making connections in a way that’s sensible, prioritizing what he wants over what he should do but feeling guilty about it–it feels so real, for all that it’s a book with overt magic.
And that’s the last part! The world of the magic is so solid that I’m just a teeny bit convinced that Thomas is writing about a real world that they know of. From the limitations on the brujx powers (they’re stuck using tracking dogs to find someone’s body just like everyone else) to the practical implications (brujos don’t tend to hold standard 9-to-5 jobs because of the flexible demands of spirits, so brujas take healing jobs and provide the financial stability).
Sure, anyone with a shred of experience with books will see Chekhov’s Story coming their way, and part of me wishes that it had been a bit more subtle as to what was going on (I, for example, am usually the last to pick up on these sorts of things but even I got where the story was going about 50% of the way through). But even though I knew what was coming a) I couldn’t put this book down (and b) I wasn’t entirely right)