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Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Published: 1st of September 2020 – Swoon Reads
Format: Hardback – 352 pages
“Why do you have to prove anything to anyone?”
“It’s just how it is, how it’s always been. In order for them to let me be a brujo—”
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads” – Cemetery Boys
Hello Hello! How are you?
I’m still very busy and exhausted because of my ongoing internship and I have been working on my thesis presentation, so still no time to sit down properly and prepare my usual weekly posts. I’m taking this opportunity to whittle down the number of drafted reviews I have saved because some go back quite a few months!
I read this book with the TWR Gang book club in February and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted, it was still a great debut from an author I’ll definitely read more of soon. Keep on reading for all my thoughts!
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true 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 off 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.
Trigger Warnings: violent death, death, disappearance, homophobia, prejudice, transphobia, abuse, burns, torture, mention of deportation, blood magic, dead-naming and misgendering, dead parent, absent parent, kidnap and corruption.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is a YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy Latinx standalone that was the February pick for our TWR Gang book club and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story.
This book starts out quick and it keeps on giving action, events, and we had so many theories in mind. As soon as I met Maritza, Yadriel and Julian, I loved them all equally, they were just all great, complex and endearing characters.
This book is set in Los Angeles in California and while we didn’t get to see much of the city, we did get to see the main setting of this book which is the Cemetery where Yadriel and his family live.
Their family lives in and around the Cemetery where they can look after their charges and make sure that the spirits cross over safely and don’t go maligno. I really enjoyed reading about the Cemetery. It’s a setting I don’t think I’ve read about much in other books, but I think it was done really well here because I was able to imagine it in my mind’s eye. I also really loved seeing the preparations for Día de la Muerte, I just wish we had seen a little more of that.
Yadriel: Yadriel is the main character in this book and when we meet him, he is really struggling with life, his family, school and being accepted by the people around him. His cousin Maritza, his Uncle and his mum are the only people who really understand and accept him for who he is. However, his mum has been dead for a year, and it has been really hard on Yadriel to lose someone he could really be himself around. I loved his character and I just wanted to shake his family so they would see what an amazing brujo he was. He grew a lot in this book thanks to his friends and it was just a great thing to read.
Maritza: I loved Maritza and totally championed her character from the minute we met her. She is vegan but as she is a bruja, she has the duty of healing people with blood, which she refuses to do. Maritza and Yadriel are both outcasts in the brujx and I just loved their relationship. You can tell how much they care about one another and I also really enjoyed their banter. Maritza is such a strong female character and definitely very badass.
Julian: Julian, oh Julian! Another character I thoroughly loved. I have to say that the author did a really great job of making all their characters so believable and complex. Julian is the kind of character that you just have a tonne of laughs with all the time, but he also has a softer side which was nice to see. He is also kind of struggling to come to terms with things even though he doesn’t show it, and I really liked seeing his interactions with the other characters. I just think this book is so cute and I was completely rooting for Julian and Yadriel the whole way.
Yadriel’s family: I just want to mention the next three character categories quickly because they all have a big place in the book even though they are only secondary characters. I found Yadriel’s family really frustrating. His grandmother keeps misgendering him and even using his dead name and it just made me mad. While I did like where the story went, I was annoyed at just how oblivious the family were and the little effort they made to accept Yadriel.
Julian’s friends: This was a group we got to see a few times and one that I at times liked and at times not so much. I don’t know why though. Julian cares so much for his friends and it made my heart hurt to see him have to watch his friends and have them not even be able to see him.
Lady Death: And finally, I just want to mention Lady Death because she is a very important character in this book. I can’t say much about her, but I found her portrayal really interesting to read about. She came across quite spooky to be honest, but you could feel the power rolling off her!
Death and disappearance: One of the biggest parts of this book is that death and disappearance are at the forefront, which is kind of obvious from the fact that the brujx have to help spirits pass over. In this book, there is a mystery and all throughout, the characters have to try to work out things about Julian and other people who’ve gone missing. I really don’t want to inadvertently spoil anyone, so I’ll leave it there, but I can’t believe how everything turned out, it was so spooky but well-thought-out.
Being brujx: I actually really liked this part of the book because we got to learn a lot about the traditions and duties of the brujx and it was so interesting. The bruja have the power to heal with blood and they are very caring, they are there to listen and support; the brujo have to help spirits pass over and get rid of those that turn maligno while protecting their families and the cemetery. I liked reading about these elements a lot, but I found them to be thrown at the reader a bit heavily, especially at the start and I did struggle to get into it and understand it all. But a few chapters in I was already understanding more Spanish words, so I think the author did end up pulling this part off well even though I was a little confused to start with.
Forbidden love: This is a trope that I’m not always a fan of because you can always kind of guess how it will turn out and what will happen, but I was totally rooting for the couple in this book. This trope was done in a way that wasn’t heavy or awkward and it didn’t annoy me, so I quite enjoyed it.
LGBTQIA+: I love books with rep and this is an #OwnVoices book so it was even better. I can’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be transgender, but the way that it was portrayed in the book was done both sensitively and also poignantly. I love learning and reading about other peoples’ experiences and I just love the rep in this story. Yadriel is just an amazing character.
Latinx culture, traditions and food: I think this might have been one of my favourite parts of the book because I am a total foody and the meals described in this story made me so hungry! I love rice and beans and the number of times they were mentioned made me want to jump into the book and eat them. Yadriel’s grandmother is constantly cooking and I would love to try her food. I also really enjoyed reading about the Latinx culture and traditions, which is something I haven’t gotten the chance to read before, but I just loved it!
“Yadriel’d once asked his mom why they didn’t just take all of someone’s pain when they were sad. She had explained it was important to let people feel grief and mourn the loss of a loved one.” – Cemetery Boys
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this was a really great book. Before I even started it, I knew I was going to love it because I had been wanting to read it ever since its release date was announced and then even more when it was pushed back because of the pandemic. I just loved the sound of the blurb and the stunning cover and I think I can definitely say that my reader’s instincts were right!
I liked the writing style because of how real it was. Nothing was hidden and it was not superfluous, which made me really immersed in the story. The pacing was also good but I did find it a little bit fast at times and it felt like we were careening along at top speed. I thought the author had a great writing style and voice though and I will definitely be reading all the next books they write, I have my eye on their latest one!
I gave this book 4 stars (full ASPECTS rating below) and I did really enjoy it. It was fun, fast-paced, it had complex characters, it was very real, believable and poignant. It made me want to visit Los Angeles and try Yadriel’s grandmother’s cooking and I loved reading about the culture. However, the characters were my favourite part of this book and their relationships and interactions were great. If this sounds like your kind of read, then I would definitely recommend you picking it up!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, see you soon, stay safe,
“You ready?” Julian asked, a curious look on his devastatingly handsome face.
“No,” Yadriel confessed, his voice tight.
Julian grinned. “Do it anyways.” – Cemetery Boys
Atmosphere – 7
Start – 6.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 8
Characters – 7.5
Theme – 6.5
Style – 7.5
Total = 50
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If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK – Amazon FR – Amazon US – AbeBooks – The Book Depository – Audible FR – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Scrib’d – Blackwell’s – Wordery