Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Published by: Swoon Reads
Pub Date: September 1, 2020
Format: arc; preordered | Source: Publisher
Genres: young adult, paranormal, LGBTQ+
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.
I had high hopes for Cemetery Boys and it was even better than I imagined!! I loved the setting so much (East LA, the week of Dia de Muertos) and I loved reading about Latinx & brujx culture and Yadriel’s family, and his relationship with his family, and their relationship with Dia de Muertos. I loved how much Spanish was spoken in the novel (really testing my Spanish reading comprehension skills here haha). It lent such an air of authenticity. AND YADRIEL WAS THE BEST!!!! I loved himmmm and his conviction and belief in who he is (a total Cancer, natch, as well as a trans brujx). He was so endearing and you empathized with him from the start- a trans boy trying to prove himself to himself, and his family, and his culture, with only a few allies by his side (his cousin, his mom, his tío). I really appreciated that being trans was a significant part of his character journey but it wasn’t the only part of his journey. Juxtaposing Yadriel’s identity against this very gendered brujo/bruja culture seems like a brilliant way to explore what it means to be trans (in my opinion as a cis person reading an ownvoices book) and what history and tradition mean to cultural changes. Family is so important to me and genealogy is a major hobby of mine so I love learning about ancestors in other cultures, which is one reason I’m drawn to Dia de Muertos in general.
Aside from that the mystery was enticing, the action was exciting, and JULIAN WAS SO ASFKJSDKL. I can see the Ronan Lynch comparisons (I can, I’m sorryyyyy) but they are VERY surface-level. Julian couldn’t be more different and is fully and wholly his own (hilarious) person. I expected this brooding figure and he was so lively and chatty and full of charm, and also very annoying in that perfectly endearing way. He seems like the sort of person who hides trauma behind their 100 bulb wattage smiles. And he was also a good conduit for the audience since he had so many questions for Yadriel about… everything hahah. Omg their interactions were classic and their romance is *chef’s kiss*. The way he accepted Yadriel completely and the way they built up each other’s confidences was really sweet. And I don’t think I’ll ever be over the bonfire party!!! WHAT A SCENE. WHAT DESCRIPTIONS. There is a lot of pain for these characters but a lot of hope and love too and that is the best thing to me.
I honestly did not see where the book was going in the last quarter and was taken wholly by surprise, which was really fun! It was heart pounding and heart breaking and just kind of overall amazing to read?! I think it’s kind of a plus that this unfortunately got pushed from June to a September pub date because it is the perfect autumn read. I am so happy this book exists and I hope everyone preorders and reads it!!
Have you read Cemetery Boys yet? What are some of your favorite books with trans characters? Any paranormal recs for me? Let me know!