By Tribune Staff
What if Harry Potter was Latino and gay? What if Hogwarts was a prison where anyone that showed aptitude for magic was kept, away from the world, and forbidden to practice magic? What if teen literature was more diverse and the voices of minorities were lifted up? Local Puerto Rican author, V.S. Santoni, has blasted on to the literary scene with his answer to Harry Potter, “I’m a Gay Wizard.” Santoni presents characters that run the gamut of race, gender, and sexuality, a reflection of the diverse world we inhabit.
The novel begins with Johnny and his best friend, Alison, dabbling in magic. After a violent hate crime, they attempt to use magic to get revenge on the bullies who harmed them. This act gains the attention of the Marduk Institute, a “magic school” that kidnaps them in the middle of the night, and erases their existence from the mundane world. While at this “magic school” they attempt to escape, all the while being hunted by a dark, supernatural force.
Santoni’s characters are vibrant and alive. Juan ‘Johnny’ Diaz, our titular gay wizard, is the heart of the novel, and the eyes from which we view this world. A punk teen who wears band T-shirts and has tunneled ears, he gives voice to every Latino kid that has felt left out, marginalized, or bullied because of the color of their skin or country of origin. The rest of the cast features Alison, a tough as nails trans girl, Hunter, a sweet southern boy, and Blake, an African-American teen who, in many ways, is the true hero of this story.
Santoni navigates his world with ease, one that takes place both here and in dreams. Moments of the novel ring with surrealist elements, as to be expected from a work that has dreams as a significant setting. The dream world, Everywhen, is enchanting, and I expect Johnny being such a daydreamer is purposeful, and sets the stage for future novels in what I hope will be a popular series. I am left with questions, but I expect them to be answered as we move toward the ultimate resolution.
This novel is relatable, engaging, and smart. Every minority kid that wanted to be Harry Potter, but was told Harry was white, straight, or British, Santoni has a response—everyone can be a wizard, can be a hero, can save the day.
I recommend this book for teens who want to see themselves in a truly exciting world that is as diverse as it is fantastical. I recommend it to adults that looked everywhere for minority voices when they were teens, but could never find them. I encourage teachers to give this book to students that might be struggling with their identities, and I recommend it to you, the reader, to enjoy .
This novel is available for pre-order and releases at all major retailers October, 29, 2019.