One Sentence Synopsis
Yadriel, a young trans teen desperately trying to prove himself as a brujo, accidently summons the recently deceased spirit of the local bad boy, Julian, and must figure what is behind his sudden loss of corporeal form.
“Why do you have to prove anything to anyone?”
“It’s just how it is, how it’s always been. In order for them to let me be a brujo—”
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads”
I read this book a few months back as a buddy read with some bookish friends. Though I loved this dark, beautiful story when I read it, I kinda wish I had saved it for this time of year. October is honestly the perfect time to pick this up! So, I figured, why not finally write my review for it in October instead?
Cemetery Boys is many things, but, at the center we have a transboy named Yadriel. Yadriel is desperate for his family to recognize him as a brujo, but traditions and “rules” have blocked his path at every turn. With nowhere left to turn, he decides to take matters into his own hands and perform his own initiation with the help of his cousin, Maritza. Shortly afterwards, however, he manages to accidentally summon the spirit of the local bad boy, Julian Diaz. While Yadriel would love nothing more than to send Julian on to the afterlife, proving he has what it takes, Julian will not go away that easily. He’s determined to find out what happened to him and he enlists Yadriel to help.
I said this story was many things, but it is first and foremost about our main character trying to live his truth out loud in a world that wants him to be quiet. My favorite aspect of this book is watching Yadriel fight for what he believes in, what he knows is right, and making his own way when others constantly try to block his path. Yadriel is a sweet, precious bean who deserves the WORLD, damnit! It’s hard to read some of what he has to deal with, especially with his own family, but trust me when I say, the end is well worth it. And Yadriel, though far and away being my favorite character in this book, is by no means the only character worth talking about. Aiden Thomas has created an entire cast of characters that feel so vivid and real that they practically leap from the page. Julian is a sarcastic, angry delight and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Maritza is a queen. A QUEEN! Even all the side characters have such vitality that it’s easy to get lost in their story. And don’t even get me started on the romance between Yads and our favorite snarky ghost 🥰 You want a romance that will touch your heart? You’ve come to the right book!
Beyond the beautifully written characters, the atmosphere in this book is just… *chef’s kiss* It’s dark, it’s spooky, but it’s also hopeful and full of love. There were moments that genuinely spooked me. And then there were moments that made my heart melt. It was all beautifully, tenderly rendered in a way that made me feel so connected with, not only the story, but the cultures represented within. The details, the descriptions, were all incredible, to the point that I could completely picture the cemetery where Yadriel’s family lives and I was craving his grandma’s cooking! This is such a vibrant story and just writing this review kind of makes me want to read it again, lol.
I think the one teensy thing that is keeping this story from getting the full five stars is that I felt like the pacing was a bit off. There were parts of the story that left me breathless they rushed by so fast! And then there were parts that were a bit of a slog. It all came together in the end, of course, but it did take me out of the story a couple of times. Luckily, the characters were always there to pull me right back in!
Final thoughts: This was a beautifully written story that has a lot going for it. The characters are wonderful; vivid and so real, you’d think you could run into them on the street. The atmosphere is perfectly crafted, with both the spooky and heartwarming bits keeping truly immersed in the story. There were a few pacing issues, but nothing that made me want to stop reading. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy that features LGBT+ characters and is on the darker side, but with a definite light at the end of the tunnel, I think you would love Cemetery Boys!