TITLE: Cemetery Boys
AUTHOR: Aiden Thomas
AGE RANGE: YA
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
“Queer folks are like wolves. We travel in packs.”
First of all, Cemetery Boys was my first major re-introduction into YA fantasy after taking almost two years off from the genre, and let me say that it was literally one of the best possible stories I could have chosen to break my hiatus with. YA fantasy used to be my most commonly read genre, so I got a bit burnt out and thought I had just worn out my welcome with it, but Cemetery Boys reminded me of everything I adore so much about the incredible offerings the world of YA fantasy gives us. This is a story full of self-discovery, and self-love, and hope, and forgiveness, and healing, and it is full of some of the most lovable characters I’ve read in a long time.
Yadriel is such a delightful narrator to spend time with. He’s impossible not to love and root for, and I just wanted to climb into these pages and grab some of his family members by the shoulders and shake them for not recognizing the wonderful human he is. Watching him deal with the casual transphobia and erasure in his home was a painful reality to witness, which made his emotions when some of those family members apologized and began to truly realize how wrong they were even more powerful. And then there’s Maritza, who is such a hilarious and fiercely protective cousin and best friend, I knew I’d adore her from the moment she was introduced.
He gave everything and expected nothing in return.
Yadriel’s heart ached.
No, none of them deserved Julian Diaz.
Finally, Julian exudes all of the best himbo energy I love to see in a love interest. He’s dopey at times, a little oblivious, volatile and young — but compassionate, protective, supportive, and honest, and I love him. I think one of my favorite moments in the entire book was when Yads spotted Julian’s graffiti message about transphobes (IYKYK). Loving Julian so much made the entire scenario tug on my heartstrings every step of the way, because knowing that he’s a ghost and his entire life should have been ahead of him just hurts once you realize how important this kid is, and how much everyday greatness he’s meant for.
The magical elements in Cemetery Boys are captivating and lovely, and feel like the most brilliant love story to many walks of Latinx spirituality that I found myself needing more, more, more information about how the brujx magic and rituals worked and about the deities referenced throughout the book. The mystery that plays out was probably the only part of the story that I didn’t fully connect to, but I think that’s because I was so enraptured by the characters and the magic that the mystery felt like a side arc that I could have taken or left. That said, I still enjoyed how it played out and was quite surprised by some of the developments near the end!
All in all, Cemetery Boys is a gorgeous book from start to finish and is entirely deserving of every ounce of the hype it’s received since it came out. I’m so grateful to have read this, and will absolutely be reaching for more of Aiden Thomas’ books in the future. ♥
Buddy read with Malka!
WARNINGS (no spoilers):
transphobia, misgendering, deadnaming, loss of a parent, grief, loss of family members, minor self-harm for magical purposes, use of animal blood for magical purposes, murder, extensive discussion of death and spirits, mentions of anti-Latinx racism and cultural appropriation
Yadriel is Cuban-American, gay, and a trans boy; Julian is Colombian-American and gay; most side characters are Latinx; one side character is a trans girl
— destiny ♥