Book Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys       

Author: Aiden Thomas

Publisher: Swoon Reads

American release date:  September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA LGBT Romance/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

All his life, Yadriel has yearned to be recognized for what he is—a brujo. His family has been brujx for generations, practitioners of magic, able to commune with the dead and help ease them into the next life. But his family doesn’t see him that way, and he has been denied his quinces, essential to his recognition as a brujo. Much of the time, they don’t see him as a boy, either, which is frustrating. Yadriel is transgender, and he only wishes to be accepted for who he is. Is that so much to ask?

His best friend, Maritza, fashions him his own blade—a portaje. This is his conduit to the world of magic. Maritza has one of her own, in the form of a rosary. Denied his rite of passage by his family, he and Maritza decide to hold one of their own, in the old church in the cemetery where Yadriel’s family live.

The ceremony is successful but something decidedly unexpected occurs—one of their own, his cousin Miguel, has died, and all the brujx can feel it. But no one can find his body, which is troubling in and of itself. Yadriel returns home to see what is happening and learns of the search for Miguel. He wishes to accompany the other brujos but his request is denied by his father. If only his mother were here. She understood Yadriel and accepted him for who he is, without question or reservation.

Yadriel and Maritza decide to search for Miguel on their own. And that is when the next strange occurrence happens, in the form of an unexpected spirit by the name of Julian. Loud, unruly, and energetic, Julian is a force to be reckoned with. And he is about to turn Yadriel’s world upside down.

This book is a treasure!  A fascinating glimpse, not only into the world of brujx and Dio de los Muertos, but also transgendered teens as well. There aren’t many books with transgendered protagonists. Yadriel is wonderful as he tries to navigate the hazards of living among people who don’t understand and can’t see him for who he is. It must be hard when your own family denies you, and because of that you can’t even participate in the same rituals the others do. Yadriel’s own uncle, Catriz, is left out of things as well, not having enough spirituality, apparently, to be considered one of them. Together, uncle and nephew are the family outcasts, the black sheep.

Yadriel’s best friend Maritza is spunky and spirited, and understand Yads, as she calls him, better than anyone. She makes him a portaje, forges it herself despite not being encouraged to do such things because of her gender. But the one who steals the show starting from his first appearance is Julian Diaz, aka the ghost with the most. He is difficult at times and extremely stubborn, but there is just something about him that Yadriel can’t resist. Plus Julian accepts Yadriel immediately, no questions asked.

If Yadriel can release Julian’s spirit, he can prove to his family that he is indeed a brujo. But before Julian agrees to this, he has conditions of his own that Yadriel has to meet. Carrying these out won’t be easy.

This book is full of fun and flavor and wonderful characters. It made me laugh and it definitely made me cry. It was recommended to me by my daughter and I was so happy she did. I got it from the library, but I ordered my own copy now, to add to my library. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a supernatural story, it’s a romance, it’s a mystery, it’s a coming-of-age story, but most of all it’s a book about people just trying to live their lives.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.

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