The Making of Yolanda la Bruja - Review
*I received a physical and audio from Levine Querido & RB Media. All reviews are my own.*
I have been catching up on all the previous titles I missed this year, and The Making of Yolanda la Bruja is on the list. A story that ties in racism, social justice, gun violence, community love, spirituality, and more, this book boosts awareness in anyone who picks up this read.
"Yolanda Alvarez is having a good year. She’s starting to feel at home Julia De Burgos High, her school in the Bronx. She has her best friend Victory, and maybe something with Jose, a senior boy she’s getting to know. She’s confident her initiation into her family’s bruja tradition will happen soon.
But then a white boy, the son of a politician, appears at Julia De Burgos High, and his vibes are off. And Yolanda’s initiation begins with a series of troubling visions of the violence this boy threatens. How can Yolanda protect her community, in a world that doesn’t listen? Only with the wisdom and love of her family, friends, and community – and the Brujas Diosas, her ancestors and guides.
The Making of Yolanda La Bruja is the book this country, struggling with the plague of gun violence, so desperately needs, but which few could write. Here Lorraine Avila brings a story born from the intersection of race, justice, education, and spirituality that will capture readers everywhere."
Because of my busy schedule, I opted to check out this story via audio, read by Lorraine Avila, the author herself. Even though I vibed with the story, Avila's voice was my least favorite thing about the experience. I found her to be monotone and flat with her narration. I wished that Avila would have considered a professional voice actor who could bring her vision to life, but I understand that some authors like to keep their babies close to their chests as long as possible.
Once I accepted the delivery of the story, I started enjoying the life of a teenage inner-city kid. At the story's beginning, I questioned and judged the hell out of the main character (Yolanda). I know teenagers do teenager things, but who the hell refuses to wear a pad/tampon when she knows her cycle is in full effect? I'm sorry; even after finishing the story, that's one of the things that stuck with me. Alas, I did respect Yolanda's character. I liked how she carried herself, even when she doubted her place in society as an apprentice-in-training bruja. In true coming-to-age fashion, I love learning who she was as a person and the story she was trying to tell.
What I liked most about TMOYLB and what kept me engaged was the portrayal and initiation of the family tradition of becoming a Bruja. I can't get enough stories like these. TMOYLB actually reminded me of another series of the same nature – Drama High by L. Divine. Like in Yolanda's story, a young black teenager is learning to accept their family customs and navigating the world with their gifts. In Yolanda's case, she must learn how to trust what she sees and follow her gut when the Brujas Diosas, her ancestors and guides, show her a troubled vision that could end her or someone else's life.
Before I give my rating, I want to go off the beaten path and talk about the classification of this book. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with the people over at GoodReads categorizing this book as "Paranormal" and "Fantasy." This story should not be housed in the same class as dragons, apparations, and magical systems. I say that because even within the story, people are called crazy because they have visions. Seeing a realistic future does not mean that we should view this book as a contrived occurrence. It's as if saying having the gift of sight is make-believe, and that takes away from the story of The Making of Yolanda la Bruja. If I could, I would mark this genre as magical realism.
Overall I rated this book 3.5. It was a nice story that touched on a lot of human issues. I loved the elements of Yolanda's religion mixing with her everyday life. It was a sad and happy ending with a message that can hopefully change how we think of people. The audio definitely did a number on me, and I wish I had experienced this book with my eyes and not my ears. But this was a promising YA debut from Avila, and I give her praise.
The Making of Yolanda la Bruja is available now!