Title: Cemetery Boy
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Description: 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.
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POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of Homophobia and Transphobia
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is a debut YA fantasy novel that landed itself on The NY Times bestsellers list upon release. It brings to life a macabre tale of magic and death - not mutually exclusive. Cemetery Boys is a celebration of life and its natural cycles with the addition of magic. The book honors Latinx culture while tackling topics such as the stigma that surrounds being LGBTQ+.
It is the magic that laces every phrase and pronunciation that keeps the reader coming back for more. You instantly see the world and ancestry that Yadriel feels such a connection to unlike anything else. The lore of the brujxs is enchanting and brings every aspect of the story into clarity. There is a challenge of some traditions while still showing respect for the historic customs. Aiden Thomas takes traditions of the past and pushes against them as Yadriel fights to be recognized for who he is. They bring modernization to an age-old viewpoint that has been passed down through generations.
Yadriel's desire to prove himself a brujo propels the story forward. He is determined to be authentically himself no matter the conventions of an outdated prejudice. Being a gay trans man, Yadriel knows himself at his very core and wants to show his family who he is proudly. Yadriel is the truest manifestation of a brave brujo. When his family refuses to acknowledge that, he takes matters into his own hands and is subsequently blessed by Lady Death.
Yadriel's experiences, deeply rooted in part to the importance of his heritage, transcend boundaries. The author recognizes the hurt Yadriel feels as his identity is denied by his loved ones but also his need to absolve others of their offenses toward him. It's that conflicting portrayal of emotion that makes the book great. There's a very universally human element to Yadriel's struggles to be accepted for who he knows himself to be. A familiar ache echoes through the pages in the rejection Yadriel receives from his family at times. Every queer kid knows that deep-rooted uneasiness in their gut that nags away at them endlessly from the denial of a person's identity.
Quite the duo, Yadriel and Julian are such multifaceted yet wholesome characters that compliment each other in the best way. The pair melt around each other to bring out the best in one another. They validate in each other what others try to deny about them. Yadriel and Julian share an unspoken understanding. Their connection is awe-inspiring and fills the reader with indefinable hope for something like what they share. Their relationship reminds the reader of those rare people one finds in a lifetime where everything about you clicks together like missing pieces of a puzzle.
Spell work in the book is intricate and encompassing. Characters like Maritza and Yadriel who are blessed with magic find a way to wield it without compromising themselves. The characters' personalities shine through brightly like an illuminated torch in the darkness. Their emotions swirl through the reader as they experience them simultaneously. The book is so blindingly tearful in its vast range of emotions from elation to grief to hope.
Aiden Thomas' writing is electric and powerful. It surges and, occasionally, singes the reader. The author balances the heaviness of serious topics with lighthearted ease. They craft a beautifully detailed story of vivacious colors. Vulnerability written by the author is like a siren's song that calls to the reader.
While the book is impactful in many ways, it certainly doesn't spare on the fun. Good-natured banter and jabbing at one another are endearing. There is no shortage of heartwarming humor. The book is somber in moments of importance yet perfectly true to the humor of it in others. It's a great balance of the two that keeps the reader on their toes
Cemetery Boys is a book of heart and soul. It shows the full spectrum of emotions in a kaleidoscope. It is a chaotic mix of tangling circumstances that muddle the fates of the characters together. The author leaves hints of a greater mystery scattered throughout the story like breadcrumbs. The story progresses easily from one point to the next without faltering. Every transition and development feels authentic and seamless.
As a bookworm, I love a diverse, queer, fantasy rom-com. It's all the best parts of the fantasy genre mixed with uniquely rom-com elements. Cemetery Boys is an intimate exploration of one's identity. The story is an encapsulation of identity and the heart of a person that shines a light on a kind of story not often told in the publishing industry. It reminds us of the industries need for more diverse stories such as this one.
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