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A few months ago, I shared that I’ve spent a lot of time on Discord, which is still true. The number of servers I’m on has doubled in that time, but one thing that has not changed. I’m still in a writers’ Discord by Rebecca Mix called Chaos Sprinters and every month we’re having a book club through there. October’s book was Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, which I didn’t get around to until now.
- Title: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
- Originally Published: September 1, 2020
- Print Length: 352 pages
- Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Paranormal
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’m going to do something a little different with this review and instead of sharing my thoughts as I read through the book. I’m going to break it into parts. Discussing various elements of the book before sharing my overall thoughts of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.
Yadriel: He is a transgender male of sixteen years old, that is struggling with his community accepting his true gender. In their society, females and males have different roles and magic: females having healing magic (which Yadriel does not have), while males have the ability to send spirits onto the afterlife. Yadriel was denied going through the ceremony that would make him a brujo due to the fact that he was born a female, so he goes through the ritual on his own with the help of his cousin. Immediately after this his cousin dies, and when he tries to offer his assistance his father scolds him saying “females are to be left behind.” And his grandmother immediately tries to console him, but is insulting in that she calls by his dead name and says he’ll always be her little girl. Which doesn’t help the situation, and if anything pushes Yadriel further over the edge as all he wants is to be accepted for who he is.
Maritza: She is Yadriel’s cousin and the only vegan in their community. Due to the fact that their magic is tied to blood (specifically sacrificed animal blood), Maritza cannot use her abilities to heal others so instead she makes weapons. Including the one that Yadriel uses in his ritual, that becomes imbedded with his soul/magic. She is the only one in Yadriel’s family and community that accept Yadriel for who he is. And helps him become a brujo instead of a bruja.
Julian: This is the spirit that Yadriel summons to prove that he’s a brujo. He’s a tough guy from school that happened to have been killed the same night Miguel goes missing/died with their deaths possibly being linked. However, Julian doesn’t want to cross over to the afterlife until he has made sure his friends are safe and alive after they were jumped in the park. While Julian has a hard exterior and quick tamper, the dude has a heart of gold and will go to the ends of the earth for his friends. He also is non-judgmental, barely batting an eye that Yads is transgender and gay as most of his friends are in the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBT+: The only other book I’ve read in the past that had a transgender character was The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare. And that individual had already transitioned completely, while it was a topic in that book, it wasn’t a major focus. So, to me it was interesting reading about this topic from this perspective. I don’t know of anyone in my personal life that has gone through this process, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it (not that it has anything to do with the book, I’m just giving my background for reference).
Yadriel only came out as transgender two or three years before the events of the story. As well as gay, but as Yadriel puts it the community doesn’t have issue with this purely as they still don’t think of him as a male. And those around him have not fully accepted the fact. They still use the wrong pronouns or name when addressing him. Plus, he hasn’t gone through the medical procedures to remove the feminine parts, so he wears binders (not that someone needs to).
Julian is also gay in the book and the eventual love interest of Yadriel. He has a very different take on transgender and sexual orientation. He encourages Yadriel to use the men’s restroom at school, and not to apologize for who he is. Another thing I love that Julian did is cross out Yadriel’s dead name in the yearbook and wrote Yadriel in it’s place.
Paranormal: This book focuses around spirits of those that have passed away. The individuals in Yadriel’s community (brujx) can see ghosts and tie their magic to the Lady of Death. Females are given the ability to heal others, while males can summon spirits then send them over to the after life by cutting the tether to the mortal realm.
Latinx culture: This plays a heavy role in the book when it comes to language as the book often has Spanish phrases. Some have the translation (or rough translation) included while others do not. And while I took four years of Spanish in high school, I had to look up some of the phrases as I wanted to know what was being said though I got the general meaning off of context clues. Plus, as the community is brujx, they celebrate Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) with literally seeing the spirits on the two days. So, there are a lot of latinx traditions referenced in throughout the book. A lot of which I was familiar with from my old roommate, so it was nice to read about a different culture and recognize parts of it while learning more.
Thoughts While Reading
This is a book that once I picked it up I couldn’t put down. I started it in October got to chapter three, and had fully planned to finish it. Then I didn’t get back to it for well over a month. Not because I didn’t like it, I just kept forgetting to pick it back up, until now and I finished it in a day because I literally was hooked. Especially once Julian made his appearance. At first I wasn’t sure about the guy as he seemed like a prick then his true colors came out and I love him. I felt bad for the guy, and the fact that Yadriel started to develop feelings for him.
Yadriel does everything that Julian wants. Checks on Julian’s friends to make sure they didn’t die during the attack, sees Julian’s brother (begrudgingly on Julian’s part as the two had a fight before Julian died), and giving Julian one last day to do whatever he wanted before Yadriel was to release his spirit. This includes a lot of things that Yads would never do like ditching school, going to a party, and stealing a car.
But in the end, Yadriel couldn’t release Julian as his uncle decided to use Julian along with Miguel in an attempt to rise Bahlam (a Mayan Jaguar god) from hell. I want to say I was shocked but I wasn’t. Yadriel’s uncle hated that he was cast out for having no magic and wanted to prove his worth. Plus, he was the only one with access to the daggers that were needed for the ritual. Ones that were missing from the attic that Yadriel’s family were the guardians of. So of course it had to be someone in that family to be behind everything. It didn’t make sense with any of the other relatives so it had to be the uncle. What was surprising in the twist was that Julian wasn’t fully dead yet.
Luckily, they manage to stop Bahlam from being released. As Yadriel takes the amulet off of his uncle, which results in Bahlam killing Yadriel’s uncle. Yadriel takes the dagger out of Julian, but it’s too late his spirit was contained within the amulet along with Miguel and two other individuals. So, Yadriel summons the Lady Death for help. But she can do nothing, only Yadriel can by using the amulet to release the spirits. However, this comes at a cost. Julian comes back to life along with the others. But Yadriel almost dies, Maritza uses the human blood on the ground to heal Yadriel effectively keeping him alive.
They are all taken to the hospital where Julian is reunited with his friends and brother. Who refuse to let him go find Yadriel, though they ensure him that Yads is alive. After Yadriel wakes up the two reunite much to their families’ annoyance since both of them are injured, in hospital gowns, and weak from what happened. But they don’t really stop either of them in the end from embracing and kissing. Though they do mock them a bit. After they are finally released from the hospital, Yadriel is welcomed into the community as a brujo with Julian watching the ceremony alongside Yadriel’s mother and family.
I seriously loved this book. It was different in a way from what I typically read in that it’s not High Fantasy instead it’s paranormal. But that didn’t care my opinion of it at all. I loved Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. I got to experience another culture and other topics that I think need to be represented way more in books. Most of the books I’ve read in the past only mention it as if in passing, or don’t go that in depth on the subject. So, I would love to see more LGBTQ+ representation in the future in books. Not to mention POC, that needs more representation as well.
I would love to read more from this author in the future. I don’t think this book will become a series as everything that was brought up was resolved. But I would love more on Yadriel and Julian, and what other things happen with the brujx as it’s such an interesting topic. However, if the author doesn’t make it into a series, it’s still a great standalone and debut book that I would recommend to read if any of the main themes/topics of the book are of interest to you.
Overall, I would give this book 4 stars out of 5.
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