Hi everyone! it’s day 7 of Blogmas and I want to share reviews for some amazing books I read lately and that were my last batch of 2020 releases by Latinx authors that I was looking forward to reading this year. I read a total of 23, a lot of them ARCs, which honestly in a year as hard as 2020 was such a source of happiness.
I had ARCs provided by the publishers for two of the books I’m going to talk about, Furia and Never Look Back, but this hasn’t affected the content of my review.
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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true 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 off 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.
CW: Misgendering, allusions to deadnaming, depictions of gender dysphoria, discussion of parental death, references to blood magic
This book is SO GOOD! It manages to be sweet, hopeful, and fun, while still addressing difficult subjects like transphobia, deportation, homelessness, gang violence, and abusive parents. This book’s exploration of the way transness is viewed and treated in a lot of brown communities, and particulary in the Latinx community, is very powerful.
My favorite thing about this book is the main characters. I love Yadriel and Julian so much. Julian is like a puppy, he can’t stand still, he can’t stay quiet, he is such a vibrant character and I LOVE HIM. And thinking about the romance between Yadriel and Julian warms my heart and makes me so happy. They are adorable, I loved the way they listened and supported each other.
The plot in this book revolves around a murder mystery, which was fun and entertaining. Even if I did figure out the whole thing very early on, that didn’t matter to me, because I was enjoying the reading experience so much.
Rating: 4,5 stars
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.
At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.
On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.
But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.
CW: domestic abuse, child abuse, homophobia, femicide
This book has so many unique elements. It’s set in Argentina and it does such a good job of showing the reality of living there. The worries about jobs and the dollar price, the delicious food, the beutiful role that soccer plays in the communities, the way the patriarchy is so rooted in the culture and the many types of violence that women face, the wave of feminicides and the emergence of the #NiUnaMenos movement in Argentina. All of it makes this book feel like something you haven’t read before. I appreciate the way the characters, especially Camila and Diego, love their city even with the things that are not so pretty.
The inclusion of Women’s Soccer was such a cool and unique element as well, I love that we get to see the passion, determination and joy of women playing a sport they love, as well as the many obstacles that they have to face because of the patriarchy and the idea that it’s a men’s sport, and because of lack of funding and support.
I really like the main character, Camila. I love her passion for soccer and I love the fact that she knows what she wants and she goes for it. I think one of the most valuable aspects of this story is the development of Camila’s mom, I love that she found the streght to stand up for herself and for her kids and I appreciated the way her relationship with Camila evolved throughout the book. The romance is cute and a bigger part of the book that I thought it was going to be, and I like the way it wraps up, I think it’s hopeful but also realistic.
Rating: 4 stars
Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera
Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .
Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.
TW: sexual assault, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, PTSD
I really enjoyed this book, the writing is very captivating and the main characters are lovable and easy to root for. This book explores serious topics like toxic relationship, trauma and mental illnesses in a very honest way, which adds a layer to the story and makes it standout.
The most magical thing about yhis book is that it’s a love letter to Puerto Rico, to its beauty and to the strenght of its people, and that was such an emotional and raw element of the story. Also, the way this talks about Hurricane Maria is so powerful and heartbreaking.
I wish this was a bit longer, just because I wanted more time to establish Eury and Pheus’ relationship and I wanted to spend a bit more time in the Inframundo at the end. I think the final part of the books feels a bit like vignettes and I wish there was a bit more time to explore and see more of the Inframundo, which was such a cool part of the story.