5 stars · Contemporary · lgbtqia content · own voices author · Paranormal · suspense · young adult

REVIEW: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

The Official Description: 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.

Just the facts: Young Adult, Brujx, Latinx, Trans character.

What’s not to love about this great book!? It’s thoughtful, diverse, sweet, brave… and I loved it. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested this book. To be honest, I liked the cover. There is some great work being done, particularly in the YA genre! From originally enjoying the cover, I discovered that this was going to be exactly the type of book that I would be interested in.

Yadriel is a Latinx trans teen boy. He comes from a traditional Brujx family. I didn’t have much knowledge about what it meant to be a Brujx but Thomas has done a wonderful job of walking the line between explaining and storytelling. I was caught up immediately in Yadriel’s plight. Because his family is so rooted in tradition, he isn’t offered the same rituals as cisgender boys. Yadriel can’t change his name officially at school, and things like his yearbook become a constant reminder of the challenges he still faces being recognized as who he is.

A member of the Brujx family has died – those in the traditional felt his passing – and when Yadriel isn’t allowed to go and assist the others with finding his cousin his need to prove his worth is renewed.

With the help of his vegan bestie, Maritza Yadriel completes the traditional ceremony that will make him a full-fledged Brujo. It might not be the ceremony everyone else would get, but he is determined to prove that he is just like the other men in their tradition.

All goes well until Yadriel summons a spirit. Enter Julian Diaz. Julian is a great character. He’s full of energy, outspoke, open-minded and sweet and all that is wrapped up in the bad-boy image that he has. He won’t cross-over after Yadriel summons him because he wants to make sure that his friends are okay. This is where the mystery of Julian begins.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the interaction between Yadriel and Julian. At times it was amusing, it was tender in the way only teenage boys can manage to be, and there was a lot of push and pull as they got to know one another. It’s poignant and touching that Julian – for all his bad-boy reputation – accepts Yadriel immediately and never questions that he is a boy, a Brujx or deserving of respect.

Aiden Thomas does a wonderful job of writing a family that reflects what most teenagers deal with. We are often accepted and loved by the people who can hurt us the most. It’s a process … getting to know our family.

I can’t speak about the experience of being a trans boy… obviously… but this novel read as very authentic to me. As an own voices novel, I appreciated the candid nature of Yadriel’s thoughts … it was an enjoyable POV to spend some time in. I’m always very appreciative of the talent it takes to write an account of a trans character without making them seem anything other than… normal. I’m probably saying this all wrong, and forgive me if I offend anyone. But, it seems all too easy in this world to write characters that exist to evoke sympathy or characters that aren’t authentic because they’re not written from a place of lived experience. Yadriel is a great character! He is open, hurting, brave, frightened and a million other things all at the same time. I thank the author for this honest and authentic novel

I’m definitely not going to spoil the end of the mystery in this book. I didn’t expect the ending I go and it was well worth the tears that welled up in my eyes a few times. It’s certainly a novel I would recommend to young adult readers without question.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Accidental deadnaming and the emotional impact following (later apologized for and the author is clear that doesn’t make it “right”.), violence, descriptions of dead bodies (not gory), bloodletting magic, body dysmorphia, angry outburst.

Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas from Swoon Reads via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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