ARC Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery BoysCemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

Warnings: misgendering and transmisia, grief from death of loved one, parental abuse (mentioned)

I will start by saying this is one of the best debuts this year – it has magic, a slew of diverse characters, discussions on queer folx’s relationships with their families when they are out but still yearn to be properly seen as queer, and a sweet romance.

Yadriel came out as trans to his parents and his families a few years ago, and while most of them accept that he is trans, the road hasn’t been easy and some members of his family still mess up and misgender him. He isn’t happy but he loves his family in his way, but when he wants to fully be recognised as a man by his family by doing the rite of passage for all brujos, his father refuses to do so, as do the other members. Wanting to complete his coming of age rite, he does it in secret with the help of his cousinand best friend, Maritza, choosing to summon his recently dead cousin whose body is missing, and ends up summoning Julian’s ghost, a classmate who went missing recently.

The mystery of the deaths is not truly the main focus of this novel – in fact, Thomas pretty much leaves two big clues on the table early on so you can pretty much guess who the culprit is. The main story is in Yadriel and Martiza and Julian trying to figure out Julian’s disappearance and who attacked him, and also, like hiding him from the whole family of brujxes who can see ghosts, which adds to the difficulty of their tasks. They are also preparing for the Day of the Dead, when Yadriel hopes to see his mom, who was his main ally. And yes, a major theme of the story is about Yadriel being trans and fighting against the gendered distribution of magic in their family (at first, brujas and brujos in this universe couldn’t do each other’s magic but it was shown otherwise), and how his family recognising him as a brujo means so much to him because that would mean their full acceptance of his as a man and not just them going along with his requests. There’s also a minor theme about considering the extent of their powers in the family hierarchy and how some, like Yadriel are left on the outskirts because they can’t or are not allowed to participate.

Yadriel’s and Julian’s romance is a subtle thing, and it develops so well from the point where they were on the same path but are snippy to each other to where they understand the other’s struggle.

Is it diverse? trans Latino main character (ownvoices) with gay Latino love interest, major cast of Latinx characters

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Swoon Reads, via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Released on September 1, 2020

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