I saved this for Halloween* and I’m so glad I did. It was so atmospheric and spooky and fun, with great worldbuilding and great characters. The only reason it’s not getting five stars is that I was straight up able to predict everything that happened in the plot, because the author telegraphed it all pretty hard. It didn’t really affect my enjoyment that much, because the fun here was the world and the characters, but I of all people should just not be able to predict everything that is going to happen in your book.
*Soooo behind in my reviews.
So if you are somehow unaware after this book took Goodreads by storm when it was first published, this book is about Yadriel, who is from a family of brujx, people who can see spirits, and whose job it is to essentially shepherd the dead: help them move on to the next life, prevent maligno spirits from harming others, and even to heal sickness and injury. Their patron is the Lady Death, or Santa Muerte, who granted them this power thousands of years before, and the magic is passed down through bloodlines. Yadriel and his family live in a community of Latinx immigrants in L.A. who are from all over the world that make up the brujx community, and his father is the leader. Yadriel is also a trans boy who is struggling to be accepted as a brujo by his fellow brujx and their families.
The plot picks up here when he and his best friend Maritza decide to do the ceremony for him to become a brujo on their own in order to prove that Lady Death will accept him as a boy and grant him his ancestral powers; hopefully that will mean he will be finally accepted by the other brujx. In the process, he gets saddled with the spirit of a boy from his school who has sort of a bad reputation, and who appears to have been murdered that night. Julian refuses to let Yadriel cross him over to the afterlife until he makes sure his friends are okay, so Yadriel and Maritza agree to help him. Complicating this is that it’s almost time for Día de los Muertos, when all the spirits of dead brujx come back to visit their loved ones, and it’s basically a two day party.
I basically loved everything about this. Yadriel’s world is so vivid and his feelings are so immediately identifiable, even if you’re not trans, you just want things to work out for him. I also LOVED Julian. I called him a himbo in a status update on GR, and I stand by that. He’s so sweet and full of energy (and clearly has an undiagnosed learning disorder of some sort) and goofy. I half fell in love with him. Yadriel didn’t stand a chance.
I normally stay away from stories where living people fall in love with ghosts, because how could that ever end well, so I didn’t read this for ages after I probably should have. Scratch that, definitely should have. If you are worried about the ghost thing, just remember this is a romance at heart, and those always get their HEA. (I knew this deep down but I was being stubborn and have also been burned many times.)