by Aiden Thomas
eARC, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 9th 2020 by Swoon Reads
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his conservative Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut.
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.
I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warning: blood, transphobia, death of a loved one.
I always love stories featuring close-knit family, multi-generational element, and tradition. Family is always a complicated thing; while close-knit family with strongly held tradition can be heartwarming, at the same time it can also be constraining as it doesn’t always the most accepting to differences, individuality, and in general, change. It is something a lot of us have struggled with, especially in our teenage years when deciding what we want in life, our career path, and who we are as an individual.
This situation is something I have experienced myself and thus, something I can relate with. And maybe that’s why I’m really drawn to Cemetery Boys, where trans-brujo has to fight his way for acceptance and space for himself within the brujx community. Despite having the blessing from Santa Muerte, he still rejected within the community. In order to prove himself as a brujo, Yadriel wanted to help solving the murder of his cousin Gabriel but he accidentally called Julian Diaz instead.
“Yadriel groaned. Of course the first spirit he summoned wouldn’t just be released willingly. No, he had to get stuck with the one who had an attitude problem.”
I think the plot is really amazing; it manages to cover a lot of themes without losing the pacing or sacrificing the storytelling and character development. We got murder mystery, of the mysterious murder of Julian and Gabriel that too much of a coincidence to be unrelated. We got Yadriel and Maritza, trying to prove themselves and carving a space for them in the strong-rooted tradition that has no room for change. We got romance and as the characters are all young adult, we got coming of age story that explores identity, sexuality, and role between individuality and tradition.
Latinx tradition is at the heart of the story and while I love how warm it is, I can also understand how it can be hard for change. The brujx community is such a close-knit community that always try to be supportive and be there for each other. The brujx and their powers have existed for a long time, with their traditions and rituals descended since the Aztecs. With such an established rules and generations of tradition, it can be a struggle for the community to change and adapt. At the heart of this community is Yadriel’s family, with his dad as the leader of the local brujx which means higher expectations to uphold the tradition and thus, harsher refusal for Yadriel. Within the family, they are trying to be as supportive as possible but when it comes to brujx matter, Yadriel has to struggle for a role of his own.
The characters are all very well-developed with strong personality. Our main character, Yadriel, is determined, brave, kind, and loyal. Despite all the rejection, he remained loyal to his community. Sure, the rejections hurt (some worse than the other) and yet he’s staying true to himself and determined to prove himself. His cousin, Maritza, is spunky and extremely loyal to Yadriel. Due to her personal belief, she refuses to partake in the brujx tradition but she’s willing to do anything for Yadriel. She’s also the biggest Yadriel/Julian shipper soooo 😂❤ And Julian may spelled trouble for many people, but that’s because he’s fiercely protective of his people. He would stood up for his friends and family, no matter what other people think and the cost for himself. The three of them work really well as a trio, with witty banter and sense of humor and protectiveness for each other.
And now we get to the romance! I’m not a huge romance reader, but even I’ve got to admit that the romance is adorable, with the right amount of angst, and progressed really well! In the beginning, Yadriel was a bit apprehensive remembering Julian’s reputation (despite him being more like an energizer bunny in general) and well, his whole “being dead” situation. But as the story progresses, they started to open up and understand each other situation better. Yadriel sees past the rumor and see Julian that’s funny, loyal, and extremely protective of his people. Julian helps Yadriel in exploring and expressing who he is as a person. Their relationship is just so positive and adorable, I admit I wanted more of them!
Strong cast of characters, fantastic romance, diversity, as well as strong plot and storytelling… what else do you want?? This book have what it takes to be a favorite of 2020 and it executes all the element really well. Overall, Cemetery Boys is a perfect read for me, living up to my expectations and then some more!