Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.
I had the good fortune of winning an advanced reader copy from a book giveaway from pocket.librarian on Instagram, so thank you! This is a debut young adult novel from the promising Aiden Thomas.
Summary of Cemetery Boys
Yadriel comes from a long line of brujx, a magical Latinx community gifted with the powers to heal or to release spirits to the afterlife. Traditionally, women are healers and men are the ones who release the spirits. But Yadriel faces the closed minds of his family and community, as he is denied the honor of becoming a brujo because he is trans.
He sets out to prove his worth alongside his best friend Maritza. As Yadriel tries to summon the spirit of a recently-deceased brujo to find out what happened to him, he instead winds up summoning the spirit of another boy, Julian. Now, to solve the murder of one of his own, he must team up with Julian to find out how the pieces of the puzzle fit. Along the way, the two fall hard for each other.
Characters of Cemetery Boys
Yadriel gives off high anxiety vibes that can overwhelm a reader at first. But his awkward personality grows on you and he burrows his way under the skin. It’s this very same charm that endears him to the spirit he summoned, Julian.
Yadriel only wants to be accepted within his community for exactly who he is. What reader wouldn’t relate to that? As he grows more confident in his identity, you can’t help but keep rooting for him. You know he full well deserves a happy ending.
Julian Diaz, the spirit boy that has attached himself to Yadriel, is fiercely loyal. He also constantly defies expectations, including Yadriel’s. Thomas did a great job creating a character that embodies certain traits that are associated with a specific persona and breaking all those rules. Julian is a vibrant and energetic teenage boy that cares deeply for the ones he loves, always putting their well-being above his own.
He is also Afro-Latinx and does poorly in school because he has a learning disability. This makes Julian the type of kid that often gets deemed disruptive and bad. Rumors about him abound, his peers and classmates causing a hurt they don’t realize stems from racial and ableist stereotypes. Even Yadriel falls victim to believing the lies at first. But as they spend time together, Yadriel quickly realizes that Julian is the farthest from bad. He is the epitome of good.
Plot of Cemetery Boys
The story plods along at a good pace, giving just enough room for the characters to breathe. As Yadriel and Julian work together, they discover there’s more that connects them than at first they thought.
Thomas does a great job of putting time on the clock for the story to take place. Yadriel and Julian have to solve the mystery fast, as Dia de Muertos fast approaches. That time restriction does a lot of work in developing both their characters. It heightens Yadriel’s anxious nature and highlights Julian’s abundant energy.
I most appreciated how in the midst of such high stakes, normal life continues. Yadriel remains concerned about attending school and passing a test. His grandma, Lita, still provides sustenance as the search for their lost brujo continues. Thomas truly captures that feeling of finding normalcy amid the chaos.
In hindsight, the plot twist at the end should have been clear. But Thomas handled it so deftly that it left me reeling and feeling Yadriel’s pain. I won’t spoil it, but the twist creates a shing moment for Yadriel as he moves past the pain to do what’s right. It solidifies Yadriel’s hero’s journey.
Thomas’s debut YA paranormal romance is a delightful romp with charming characters. It makes me excited to see what else they will bring readers in the future. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
If you have had the pleasure of reading an ARC, let me know what you thought of the book! If you would like to pre-order, get your copy here. Cemetery Boys is set to release September 1, 2020.