Witch of Wild Things by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is the story of Sage Flores, a young woman who’s forced to move back home to the small town of Cranberry with her aunt Nadia and sister Teal after losing her teaching job. She’s not happy to be back as there is still a lot of tension between her and her family after the loss of her younger sister, Sky.
Though not exactly happy about being back, Sage needs a job and ends up going back to Cranberry Rose Farm, where she used to work at as a teen as the “plant whisperer.” Not even a full day into her new job, she runs into her old high school crush, Tennessee, where she’s asked to work with him to help the farm’s business. Overwhelmed with being back home, Sage needs to deal with navigating her family relationship, and now with being in close proximity to Tenn. On top of all of this, Sage is also being haunted by Sky’s ghost. Now she’s tasked with figuring out how to help Sky’s ghost move on, and how to work with Tenn without getting hurt.
The overarching theme of this story is grief. It’s been eight years since Sky’s accident and there is still a ton of tension between Sage and Teal. It’s obvious that they’re both still grieving Sky’s loss; with Sky haunting Sage, and Teal’s incessant anger problems and continuing to blame Sage for Sky’s death. As a result of this, Teal lashes out at Sage every single chance she gets, making it impossible to ty to repair their relationship. Sage blames herself for not being there the day of Sky’s accident as she thinks she could have stopped it from happening, so she’s carrying this guilt on top of the sadness. Though Teal was there when it happened, she blames Sage for not being there to stop them, and is still angry at her about it; which is really stupid considering what happened so Teal’s anger is misplaced and is basically her refusing to take accountability for the accident.
Survival is the other big theme, tied with grief, that is present in the book. Sage’s mom left when the three of them were kids and while they stayed with Nadia, she pushed the responsibility of being the adult onto young Sage. Nadia ends up only acknowledging Teal and Sky as children, not Sage, despite the fact that the three of them were children in need of adult guidance. Sage unfortunately doesn’t get to experience childhood as a child, but did her best to make sure Teal and Sky could. In making sure that they were okay, Sage was forced to figure out how to survive on her own, which led to her making questionable choices as an adult as she didn’t have the space to make mistakes as a kid. It’s sad because she couldn’t rely on the one adult that was around because the expectation for her was to always step up, and so Sage holds onto a lot of anger that she keeps bottled up inside for the sake of keeping the peace.
Overall, I loved reading Witch of Wild Things. While I found Sage incredibly annoying towards the beginning, she comes into her own a bit as the story progresses. I also loved her connection with Tennessee and how their romance felt genuine. Despite these big themes, the book is still a romance after all. And while I didn’t mention it, the Flores women all have special gifts – which is part of the magical realism that is intertwined in the story. The story reminds me a lot of the kind of magical realism found in Ashley Poston’s The Dead Romantics, so if you’ve read that one and enjoyed it, you’ll enjoy this book.
That said, I give Witch of Wild Things five stars for the multi-dimensional story with a bunch of Latine representation, magical realism, romance, and character growth.