Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now
Summary: 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.
Review: [Content notes: This book includes misgendering, deadnaming (Yadriel’s deadname is never provided to the reader), gender dysphoria, violence, and use of both human and animal blood in magic/rituals.]
I’ve had my eye on CEMETERY BOYS for a while now, and I was delighted to finally get myself a copy. Author Aiden Thomas’s debut novel did not let me down—it was a fun, engaging read, with a compelling cast, a cute romance, and some really interesting world building.
The stars of the show were Yadriel, a trans boy, and Julian, the ghost. Yadriel’s desire to be accepted by his family and extended community as a brujo drove the overarching plot. I was incredibly happy that Yadriel had support from the very first chapter, even if there were others in his life that weren’t as accepting. Yadriel’s character arc was fantastic, and I absolutely loved watching him fall for Julian. His friendship with Maritza was also lovely, and she was one of my favorite characters.
I took a little longer to warm up to Julian, but it definitely helped that behind his bluster, he really cared—about Yadriel and his friends and his brother. You can’t help but like someone who is determined to make sure that his people are all right before he passes on. His and Yadriel’s romance was sweet and certainly worth the price of admission.
The world building around the brujx community and Día de Muertos was incredibly interesting to me. There are a lot of fantasy books that have gender-based magic systems that just entirely ignore the existence of trans folks; Thomas tackled that head on with Yadriel and how Yadriel was denied his opportunity to take his place within his community by others. There is a conversation later in the book that I felt was especially important—that it’s impossible for Yadriel to have been the very first trans brujx in thousands of years. The history may have been lost, or buried, but there were and will be others like Yadriel.
As the book came closer and closer to Día de Muertos, it was incredibly satisfying to watch the pieces Thomas had planted all coming together for the climax. A careful reader will find all the clues beforehand, but it is to Thomas’s credit that the ramp up to the end was still exciting even with all of them in hand.
Recommendation: Buy it now. CEMETERY BOYS is a compelling contemporary fantasy starring a trans Latinx boy who wants to prove to his community that he is a brujo and the ghost he summons and cannot get rid of. The characters are great, the gay romance is sweet, and the world building is a lot of fun. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on Aiden Thomas’s debut this year.