Book Reviews

Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hi everyone! Today I am back with another review, this time for Aidan Thomas’ debut novel, Cemetery Boys. I had been wanting to read this novel for a while after hearing exciting things about it in the YA book community. It was mentioned back in my October TBR post though I just finally read it as a coursebook for a gender, sexuality, and women’s studies class that I am taking this semester!

Overall, I really enjoyed Cemetery Boys! I did find it to be a little predictable and had some issues with the writing which is why I gave it 4 stars. However, it was fast-paced (takes place over 3 days from Yadriel summoning Julian to Dia de Los Muertos), important, and an atmospheric read. I would recommend picking it up if you are looking for a fun, diverse, magical realism/fantasy read. I hope more people continue to pick up Cemetery Boys; I couldn’t help but imagine how great it would be as an animated movie!

“Yadriel groaned and dragged a hand over his face. On the bright side, he had actually summoned a real-life spirit. On the not-so-bright side, he had summoned the wrong one.”

Now I will be delving into spoilers…


What I didn’t like about the writing: 

When it came to the writing it did read a bit young to me. This could be due to the fact that now that I am older, I am more critical of writing and relate less to protagonists that are 15/16 years old. Still, I think there were opportunities for greater depth in the descriptions of the character’s feelings. In particular, the chapter we get at the end of Julian’s POV sticks out to me where I felt his reasoning behind his reactions was lacking development. Not that Julian is a very eloquent individual, but I think his reasoning behind his inner turmoil could have been described with more eloquence. Maybe this is just my inner editor coming in, but there were a few times I wish I could’ve edited the sentences.

The twist:

So, I love a good twist in books which is why although Cemetery Boys had one, I was a bit disappointed as it was pretty predictable. Before it was revealed, I had a pretty good idea that Tío Catriz was behind the disappearances/murders as there wasn’t really anyone else it could have been. It definitely made me sad to consider this possibility though as we see him and Yadriel’s tight bond throughout the novel due to them both being outsiders but accepting each other. My friend brought up how this was similar to the plot of Spiderman into the Spider-Verse which I also thought of! Since Lita kept asking after the missing daggers which had the potential to grant extreme dark magic, I was able to put two and two together. Still, I did not see the fact that Julian was still (barely) alive and that Yadriel would be able to sacrifice himself for all of them, so I was still excited by that ending! 

Pacing:

One thing I loved was how fast-paced the novel was being set over just a few days. Even though this isn’t a lot of time, I loved how it still allowed for growth in the characters. Throughout the novel, there is that element of fear that they might get caught especially as Yadriel does the brujo ceremony on his own and hides Julian in his bedroom. The whole plot was probably one of my favourite parts of the book and it intrigued me from the moment I first heard the synopsis. It kept me hooked and I was able to read the book over four days. 

Heartwrenching & Heartwarming Moments:

There were so many heartwrenching moments in the book. I really admired Yadriel and how he went to find Julian’s friends and family, and even went to the bonfire for him even though it was clearly out of his comfort zone. I felt like I related to his personality the most out of the main cast while Julian is more of a daredevil and Maritza possesses unmatched confidence. 

Of course, there were many heartwrenching moments relating to Yadriel not being accepted at times by his family as a brujo or a boy, and the various other microaggressions he would experience in his daily life relating to his gender identity. This is an own voices novel which is important as the author is able to use their own experiences to write accurate representation. While it is a happy ending for Yadriel, the author doesn’t omit the struggles he does face for his intersectional identities. I felt Aiden Thomas did a great job of making the reader feel some of the pain Yadriel was experiencing in those moments. Even small scenes, like watching his father say, “Well done, mijo” to his older brother (when that is all he yearns for) really hit me with an emotional weight. Though I could not directly relate to being trans, I could sympathize with the feeling of not being seen for who you truly are. I am pleased to say this book does not end sadly and there were definitely heartwarming scenes to fill these wrenching ones. Some scenes that warmed my heart were Julian writing “Yadriel” over his deadname in the yearbook and the closing scene where Yadriel is finally accepted by his father and community as a brujo. 

Honorary Mentions…

I think I’ve summed up most of my feelings by now but I did want to give a few acknowledgments to a few other scenes I really enjoyed…

  • The scene where Julian is flickering in and out was definitely a heart-wrenching moment for me and I could help but compare it to the “Stand Tall” scene in Julie and the Phantoms :’). 
  • The scene where Tito goes maligno and attacks Yadriel in the cemetery. This one just caught me off guard, but I was suddenly super excited to have some action in the book. 
  • The details! One thing that really touched me was how Julian explains to Yadriel that he doesn’t speak Spanish because it was the language he spoke with his father before he died and it carries a sort of intimacy. But then of course we see him use it later when he asks if he can kiss Yadriel which also is a moment of intimacy. Then near the end when Yadriel got Julian to pick all his favourite foods so he could make him his own ofrenda… Okay :’)
  • And lastly, here’s a Tik Tok I made of this scene because I thought it was appropriate with this song that’s currently popular: 

If you’ve made it this far, have a pat on the back! What were your thoughts on Cemetery Boys? Could you also picture it being turned into a movie? Animated or live-action? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Review cover photo by Anna Sullivan

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