3 out of 4 stars
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In Chris Knoblaugh’s novel Tribute, Miguel was a young twelve-year-old Spanish boy living in San Jose who lost his older brother Juan one day, unexpectedly. Juan was fifteen when he died due to a gunshot wound to the forehead. About a week after his funeral, Miguel still could not stop thinking about his brother, so somehow, he pulled Juan’s soul into his head while he was in class. With his brother back, Miguel decided to help Juan find out who his killer was. However, when Juan’s girlfriend Maria suddenly came into the picture, it sent a chain of events leading to the two brothers seeking shelter in their Uncle Tito’s house, dealing with Juan’s summoned demons, taking refuge inside a church, and Miguel learning from an unexpected person on how to capture the demons and vanquish them.
One thing I liked about the book was the author’s writing style. It was fast-paced enough to my liking, and the fact that the chapters were a bit shorter than average helped keep me engaged all throughout compared to having long, descriptive, or numerous paragraphs. There were about 83 chapters all in all told in Miguel’s first-person point of view. The story, in my opinion, was interesting and weird in its own way; the characters have different personalities of their own which make them seem memorable. Although I didn’t come to like Juan’s character, I understood why Miguel couldn’t let his brother go just yet. Miguel didn’t seem close to his sisters, his mother had a “tough love” persona for her son, and his father terrified him. Juan had been the one who was closest to him, even protecting him from their father sometimes.
What I disliked about the book was that I thought that the big mystery or driving force in the overall storyline was investigating about Juan’s killer. In the end, however, this plot point grew insignificant compared to the demons Juan summoned, their family’s connection to Santa Muerte — a skeletal reaper worshipped mostly by drug dealers in San Jose — and Miguel’s battles against them. Miguel as the narrator of the story also made it lack impact for me, mainly because he’s young, so his depiction of events were sometimes quite simple and he didn’t really think much about how these things occur. Rather, he just accepts that they do happen, though he does get curious from time to time. However, I also think that this manner of writing is suitable for the genre since this book is intended for the YA audience, and the author may possibly shed more light into this world-building she created in the sequel since it’s implied that this is the first book in The Cleaners series.
All in all, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I deducted one star due to the numerous mistakes I found throughout the contents as well as my small personal nitpicks in the story. The errors weren’t very major, but there were some repeating mistakes, like for example the spelling of “Fleurety” becoming “Fluerety” four times in the book. The other mistakes were a bit distracting as well, so I think a good proofreader will be able to solve this problem easily.
This book contains religious themes and touches of Spanish language, so I think people who are comfortable reading about stories with these aspects will be able to appreciate the story more since Miguel eventually gains knowledge from a pastor and an ex-minister about how to fight and exorcise demons. There isn’t much mystery in this book, in my opinion, though there are scenes with thriller, suspense, action, and a bit of horror. There are also some mild swearing and graphic descriptions, so I think it's suitable for YA audiences 14 years and above.
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