Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 1st, 2020 (Swoon Reads)
Synopsis: 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.
Yadriel is determined to prove that he can be a real brujo, though his traditional family has trouble accepting that he is transgender. With his cousin Maritza, he performs the ritual to gain his powers successfully one night. He soon finds out that his cousin Miguel has been murdered that same night, he decides to raise Miguel’s ghost to find out what happened, but also set it free and demonstrate to the brujx community and his family that the ritual was a success. But the ghost Yadriel raises is not his cousin, but that of Julian Diaz, the school’s bad boy and he is less than cooperative about being released into the afterlife. Julian wants to find out how he died, and check in on his friends before he leaves and having no choice, Yadriel agrees.
I was initially a little hesitant to pick up this book because there was so much hype around it (also, ghosts), but I just kept seeing such amazing reviews for it that I was finally convinced – and this was such a beautiful read! The world building was excellent – I loved the brujx community and culture in this book, from the history and lore to the various traditions we get to see. Given that this is a standalone, I did not expect this level of detail, so I was very impressed with this backdrop to the story that has clearly been created with so much effort. This aspect of the story actually reminded me quite a bit of the movie Coco!
Yadriel was an interesting and likeable character who was very easy to connect to right from the beginning. The story portrayed his struggles to be seen and accepted for who he was, as he deals with bullying in school and the hurt of being misgendered and deadnamed even within his own family. I liked the author’s portrayal of Yadriel’s family though, showing that they’re not rejecting him, merely working through everything and trying to understand what he is going through. I know I’m not the target audience for this book, but in my opinion as a reader, I thought that this important topic was very well handled and the scene with Yadriel’s dad at the end was lovely. Though this story is told only from Yadriel’s perspective, we get to know the other characters pretty well too, particularly Maritza and Julian.
Apart from the pace being a little slow at times, I don’t really have anything to criticize about this book at all. The mystery of who was behind Julian and Miguel’s murders and what exactly was going on kept things interesting throughout. It wasn’t obvious who the culprit was, but if you pay attention to the details, there are enough breadcrumbs to figure it out by around the 75% mark. The ending, while not what I expected, was nicely done. I thought it would turn out sad and bittersweet, but it actually ended up being a happy one! Cemetery Boys was a fun read and I really enjoyed the story and characters. I would highly recommend this book!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!