Tito and Matt are moving in together. They’ve been together for a long four years and things are … difficult. Tito is always walking on eggshells around Matt, who is still extremely sensitive over his previous girlfriend’s cheating, which causes him to constantly ask where Tito has been, who they’ve been with, and what they’ve been up to. He’s also driven away all of Tito’s friends and, at times, Tito wonders if this is the right relationship for them. They’re intersex and finding a boyfriend was difficult; finding one who accepted their physical body without expectations of one gender or the other was even more challenging. Matt is … well, Matt’s what they have..
While looking for a job, Tito has the opportunity to sit in on the local Wiccan’s evening rituals. As a solitary witch, they’re fascinated by the idea of finding some of their own people and, for a wonder, they hit it off. Everyone there is kind, welcoming, and the energy between them is just perfect. (Maybe it’s perfect because Matt wasn’t able to come … ) The second ritual Tito attends, Matt is able to tag along and manages to sour everything. He’s instantly suspicious of Leo, their upstairs neighbor and fellow Wiccan who Tito has a brief conversation with about tarot cards, which leads to a fight and a long, silent car trip home.
Things only get worse from there. Tito is losing time, sometimes finding themself in the middle of a conversation without any idea what they’re talking about. And it’s getting worse. More and more time is slipping past, and the sudden bruises might be something more than an accident they don’t remember. With the help of Leo and other members of the circle, Tito discovers unhappy truths leading to a horrific understanding of their childhood, and a confrontation with the people who have hurt them.
Just a warning before going too far, this book contains mentions of child abuse, child molestation, drug overdose and death, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, disordered eating and weight issues, stalking, threats of abuse, threats of murder, suicide via gunshot, and a character who has dissociative identity disorder due to childhood trauma and abuse. Because so many of the characters work with abused children and families, there is a lot of telling and explaining about the signs of abuse, the tactics used by abusers, the protections a person should take against their abuser and, while it’s a good message, it does at times come across like an informational pamphlet rather than a conversation between characters. This is only exacerbated by the need to explain DID (dissociative identity disorder) and the various shades of religion and magic that the characters practice.
Speaking of, the characters in this book feel very one note, as each one seems to represent more an idea than a person. Leo is the handsome, good, and supportive love interest. Matt is the evil, manipulative ex. Tito’s mother barely exists, their grandmother is evil, and Tito is the main character who has to learn that they’ve been a victim all their lives. Tito doesn’t remember what their grandmother did, what their father did, or what Matt did to them, because all of those memories were handled by the other personalities in their head. From the children who endured the sexual and physical assaults, to the plucky teenager who bore the brunt of the emotional and physical abuse as they were forced to cast magic and punished with magic by the evil grandmother.
Tito, themself, has no memory of these events. Confronting the person who hurt them lacks some of that emotional resonance, but because Matt is an amalgamation of every evil ex stereotype — the stalking, the pleading, the attempted break ins, the threats and the flowers — it’s more a ritual, a number by number confrontation and banishment. When one of Tito’s other personalities steps forward to defy the grandmother who hurt them, it feels performative rather than poignant. The romance with Leo feels like it is there because Tito needs a happy ending. Leo is supportive, kind, and handsome, which makes him easy to fall in love with, but who he is as a person beyond kind and supportive (and handsome), I have no idea.
While the book is easy enough to read, with a brisk pace and a plot that hit all the beats, I just didn’t find enough in it to hold my interest.