This magical yet authentic debut by Aiden Thomas is as intriguing as it is inclusive. It’s soaked in Latinx culture and LGBTQ+ representation, but most of all, it’s a wonderful story about acceptance and with amazing characters to root for!
Sixteen-year-old gay Latinx trans boy Yadriel comes from a long line of brujos with the power to bridge the living world with the dead. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel and his cousin and best friend Maritza perform the brujo ritual he’s been denied on their own. With his magical powers unlocked, Yadriel is determined to prove himself to his family, both as a brujo and a boy. But in the search for his murdered cousin Miguel’s lost spirit, he ends up summoning the wrong ghost.
Instead of the ghost of Miguel, Yadriel is now stuck with the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, who is not about to go quietly into death. 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 things he wants may not be about Julian leaving at all…
“The only thing more stupid than going around his family’s back, summoning spirits, and trying to solve multiple murders would be falling for a dead boy. Especially if it was Julian Diaz.”
I absolutely loved Yadriel and loved following him as the protagonist in this wonderful story about his quest for acceptance and discovery of love where he least expects it. Yadriel was such an authentic character in his doubts, his longing for acceptance of who he was, his friendship with Maritza and his general kindness. And Maritza in her turn was such a wonderful friend to Yadriel. Always there for him, but also so badass! The dialogue and the banter between them were so fun and witty.
My main favorite though was Julian. I do have a soft spot for bad boys, and Julian was one of the best bad boys with a big heart that I’ve ever met. He was so certain about himself being gay and understanding of Yadriel. I loved the way he helped Yadriel to believe in and stand up for himself, telling him that he was good enough the way he was and that he didn’t need the acceptance of others, just himself.
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you.”
And I loved how Julien pulled Yadriel into his loud, wild and vibrant world, pushing him outside his comfort zone. The character growth within this book was amazing, with Yadriel growing to accept who he was and his strength, with Maritza allowing herself to perform magic in an untraditional way, and with Julien opening up to show his emotions. And the romance part… ah, it was just so sweet and perfect! Kudos to Aiden Thomas for the compelling dynamic and the truly unique set up with Yadriel falling for a ghost he knows he must eventually help pass to the other side.
There is so much to this story! At its core it’s a mystery plot and a hunt for a mysterious murder, but it’s also full of Latinx cultural elements and paranormal aspects. I also really appreciated the queer representation and the nuanced way that it was described in that it wasn’t so much Yadriel struggling with his identity but his family and how their refusals hurt and impacted him, without making his family pure evil or turning them into villains.
I’ll have to admit though, that it took me a little while longer than expected to get into the story. The pacing was a bit slow until I’ve gotten to know all the characters and the hunt for the murderer took off. And some parts were perhaps a bit too predictable.
But all in all, this was an amazing debut from an author with a completely new voice to watch. In Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas takes us on a mystical, heartfelt and emotional journey with his fantastic narrative, wonderful characters and enchanting mix of queerness, authenticity and paranormal magic.
4.5 magical stars rounding up to 5
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alwyn Hamilton Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Grace Williams Gwen Martin Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han John Green Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Mackenzi Lee Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally M. Tasia Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Teagan Hunter T.J. Klune Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard