I won an arc of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thoman in a twitter giveaway, I was not given this arc for a review, I am not part of any promotional tours, these are all my own thoughts and opinions! I just really loved this book, the representation, the introduction to a beautiful latinx culture I knew nothing about, and just want to spread the word as the book is released on the 1st September 2020! (Though I think I saw somewhere U.K release is October 1st, so i’ve pre-ordered the book as a birthday present to myself, October 4th.) You can still pre-order, or wait until the 1st to purchase it but I think Aiden is hoping to get onto New York Times Best Sellers List, as the first trans author with a trans main character and I wanna help promote the book and share my love of it!
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“Queer people are like wolves,” Julian told him. “We travel in packs.”
Cemetery Boys is a romantic mystery, starring Yadriel a latinx trans guy struggling to prove his identity to his family members. With the help of his cousin Maritza, Yadriel gives himself the quinces his family delayed indefinitely to prove that Lady Death accepts him as a brujo and so should they. In the first chapter we are thrown straight into the action seamlessly, meeting Yads and Maritza on their way to perform the ritual. We learn all about their latinx culture of the brujx and the gendered roles in a way that is easy to digest, we learn about the beginnings of the culture and the mixture of origins their people have. I love the imagery throughout this book, one I liked was “Spirits have blurry edges… They looked like photographs taken out of focus and with the saturation turned down” giving such a vivid portrayal of the spirits in this story. We get an introduction to the main family members who are important to the story along the way and some background characters really filling in the rich familial history. Unfortunately, right as Yadriel and Maritza complete the ceremony, they both feel a dreadful stabbing pain in their chests for a moment before running back to the main family home across the cemetery (oh, yes, they live next to the cemetery!) to find that one of their family, cousin Miguel, has died but no one can find him. Here ensues the man hunt for his body or the item that would tether him to earth. Yads is not allowed to join the hunt as they do not see him as a brujo, but he obviously defies them and so does Maritza and they return to the location they had just performed the quinces and find a necklace Yads thinks is Miguel’s. Truly trying to prove himself, he chooses to summon whoever is attached to the necklace but… it’s not Miguel… but a very hot kid who went to Yads’ school. Julien Diaz. Now Yads is stuck with a hot ghost boy following him around until they finish Julian’s business… and solve the mystery?
This is a great book, easy to follow and age appropriate but not dumbed down. Slow burn romance! Low key enemies to friends to lovers in a way as they don’t get on to begin with, but enemies is a bit harsh. Amazing trans MC where enough of the plot is and covers transness and trans struggles but that’s not the only thing we care about even though it is a driving force for the plot. Neuro-diverse love interest who is a spirit?? Love him. Outside rough and strong but soft and bouncy like a puppy, so silly and fun. His coming out moment to Yads is pretty humorous, I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud. The descriptions of Julian are honestly some of my favourite parts of this book, you can really feel his spirit (no pun intended) and he is so authentically himself. It reminds me of the song Hurricane by Halsey, “Don’t belong to no city, Don’t belong to no man, I’m the violence in the pouring rain, I’m a hurricane.“
“Julian was the most alive person he’d ever met. Even as a spirit, he was bright and full of constantly moving energy. The Sun crammed into the body of a boy. Yadriel didn’t want to see him without his light.”
I saw the plot twist coming but I dont think many people will. I’ve just studied literature for too long I can spot how it’s weaved into the story to mislead you but it was great and very well done. Hurt my heart, honestly. We get a wonderful loving family ending, I won’t say anything more but it’s very heartwarming.
I love that this whole plot is Lady Death validating Yads’ gender and just like ‘yep here you go POWERS’ ur a real boy woo! Like, nothing can be more validating than a literal Goddess giving you powers.
There were a few moments I thought were odd and didn’t add much to the story, like the dead end with the sniffer dogs, not amounting to anything… I was hoping to find out something there even if it wasn’t about the missing cousin, but these moments were minimal. For the most part, everything that happened had a reason and was followed through or revisited later. I do wish there was more about Julian’s friends and the other two people who went missing, even a little more back story or it being weaved in more than just some random kids. I just think that would have been more satisfying and made a decision nearer the end harder for the reader. I loved the finale and resolution! I was wondering how that was all gonna work out and I like how it strung in Maritza as well and her role in the brujx culture as she was persistently resistant to their expectations as well (being vegan and forging Yads a portaje).
I adore the cover, I’m always here for a stunning illustration of the characters involved, especially for books featuring marginalised characters. I think it helps to solidify what these characters look like for the -white- audience.
“Yadriel was tired of it. He was tired of forgiving. He was tired of fighting to just exist and be himself. He was tired of being the odd one out.”
There are many beautifully created moments that are deeply saddening sprinkled throughout Cemetery Boys. Some that come to mind are Julian’s worry and troubles with his friends and family and the idea he may not be able to fix anything, Yads’ struggle to be seen as he is and his family being loving but dismissive, meeting quirky characters with rich backstories who come to bitter ends, betrayal from those the characters trusted most, and of course Yads falling in love with a boy who is already dead… Urgh. So many feelings. For the most part, all the characters are created equal, they all have backstories and distinct personalities, they aren’t just plot devices or props, they are full characters. This might sound silly, but it’s so important to me side characters feel full and polished, because I do find a lot of side characters aren’t fully developed so you aren’t as hurt when they die or betray the main character or disappear. Aiden makes you care about each of these characters which helps deliver such a lasting impact.
I read this book in two days, I started it off but wasn’t feeling totally with it so came back to it a couple of days later, and then demolished it. Each chapter ends of a cliffhanger, which I love and hate at the same time because yes! Make me wanna read more! But also I like to put the book down when a chapter ends to either go do something or go to sleep, but you can’t do that when the cliffhangers are so good! You’ll find it hard to put down, is what I’m saying, R.I.P my sleep.
The overall theme of family and acceptance is something I find is often missing from YA books as many neglect parental figures. Even though you don’t see either of Yads parents in this book and Julian doesn’t have any either, there is an emphasis on the importance of their familian links. Yads’ mum died almost a year before the story begins and she is a really big part of Yads being there and being who he is because she accepted him wholly, Yads’ dad is representative of the leaders in any community holding the power to create acceptance among all who follow him and though he might think he is doing the right thing at the beginning and trying to keep Yadriel safe he is also holding his son back and the whole plot is fuelled by Yadriel’s need for his father’s acceptance which would lead to the entire family accepting him as well. Julian’s father turns out to be an important figure and his brother who took over the role of father at a young age to care for Julian, but also Julian’s friends, and this part of the story reminds us that there is the option of chosen family and how they are equally as important. Family of any appearance is still family, and the eventual combining of the two is a beautiful way to round off the story.
Want other reading recs? Check out my Queer Lit Reads video.
I hope you enjoyed my post. There was so much I wanted to say but I didn’t want to get too spoiler-y, maybe I’ll come back to this post in the future when it has been out for a while and add some more thoughts and opinions that are spoilers! But I wanted to write this up and let you all know how amazing this book is, pretty much everyone I know who loves reading it super excited for this book, the hype is real. The day I post this, you can get a free kindle sneak peak on Amazon, so if you’re interested in giving it a read, check that out! If reading the first few chapters doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. I’ve been delving more and more into books written by BIPOC and found a whole new world of fiction I never knew I would love. The rich culture depicted in the books I’ve been reading has shown me that these books really deserve more promo than they get most of the time and I want to dedicate myself to finding and reading more books by BIPOC (preferably queer, you know me) and I have a bunch on my TBR to get to. Give Cemetery Boys a read! Pre-order! Go now!
Check out Cemetery Boys on GoodReads.
One of BitchMedia’s YA novels Feminists should read.