Thank you to Swoon Reads for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Source: Physical ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: YA, fantasy (paranormal), romance, LGBTQ+
Content warnings: death, transphobia, mentions/descriptions of blood, misgendering
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.
This book, y’all. This book. It’s been 48 hours since I finished and I still tear up a little whenever I think about Yadriel and Julian. Without further ado, I give you…
5 Reasons to Read Cemetery Boys
- Cemetery Boys is a coming of age story in its purest form. This is Yadriel’s story, his chance to be a hero and to be recognized as a brujo in his community, and nothing will deter him – not even death itself. I shed no small amount of tears every time Yadriel had to deal with the frustration and hurt of having to explain who he is to his family time and time again, and held my breath along with him when he met someone new and had to introduce himself, only to let out a sigh of relief when he is accepted for who he is without further explanation. This book moved me to tears, and a large part of that has to do with Yadriel’s struggle to reconcile the unconditional love he has for his family and the continuous hurt he is caused by these people he loves so much when they misgender him. I thought Aiden Thomas handled complicated family relationships mixed with a deep-rooted sense that Yadriel deserves to be unapologetically himself beautifully, but I can’t speak about the representation from personal experience, so I strongly encourage you to seek out reviews by queer Latinx readers, such as this one and this one.
- The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the wound. A central point in the book revolves around what it’s like for Yadriel to live in a multigenerational Latinx household and be immersed in the brujx community, even when they don’t fully acknowledge him as a brujo. He loves his family and would do anything for them, but Yadriel learns that family is not always the one you’re born into, but the one you make. His cousin Maritza sticks by his side and defends him when no one else will, and even though she’ll complain about it, she’s willing to go to hell and back for Yadriel. Julian and his friends are no different. Even after Julian finds out he’s dead and he’s a ghost and the only reason he can talk to Yadriel and Maritza is because they’re brujx, his priority is making sure that his friends are okay – how could you not love this literal puppy?? But I digress.
- Literally the cutest ship dynamic ever. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t digressing after all. If Julian is a bouncy, energetic, loud, and rambunctious puppy, Yadriel is the poor, wizened old cat who has to deal with said puppy’s chaotic bursts of energy at 3 a.m. when all he wants to do is get some sleep. They are ridiculously cute and their interactions had me snorting and laughing out loud. Yadriel and Julian seem to find the perfect balance between teasing each other and exchanging heartfelt, tender moments almost immediately. They had me outright sobbing through the last few chapters of the book, and hopefully by now you know my general rule – if it makes me cry, I’m legally obligated to give it 5 stars!
- The supporting characters truly help make the book shine. Along with our courageous and compassionate main character Yadriel and our tough softie of a love interest Julian, Cemetery Boys also includes a vegan bruja who refuses to use animal blood to heal, a doting but misguided grandmother who loves vastly and fiercely, a mother who sees her son for who he is even when nobody else does, a clumsy former gang member/all-around cinnamon roll, and more. These characters are all so vibrant in their own right that you can’t help but fall in love with each and every single one of them.
- Don’t speak Spanish? You’ll figure it out. I loved the way that Spanish and multiple Latinx cultures were seamlessly woven into the book. Often times, there is no direct translation of Spanish to English – and frankly, I think we could use way more of that in books. I’ve loved seeing an uptick in books that loudly and proudly incorporate other cultures and languages without acquiescing to whiteness and attempting to make things more relatable and easier to understand for white readers. Natasha Ngan put it extremely well in one of her recent tweets: “Don’t italicise. Don’t dilute. Write proudly and boldly.”
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