Book Review – Cemetery Boys

Author: Aiden Thomas

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Length: 352 pages

Read Date(s): May 26, 2021 – May 29, 2021


Goodreads Synopsis

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.

My Review

This book has been on my TBR for a while because I’ve heard such great things about it. So, my expectations were pretty high going into it. For the most part, the book met those expectations. It was an adorable story with lovable characters and a beautiful message.

The characters were my favorite thing about this book. Yadriel was a fascinating main character, and I enjoyed reading about his journey to prove himself to his community. I’ve never read a book from the POV of a trans character before, and the exploration of his psyche was enlightening. It taught me a lot about the struggles a trans person may go through to be accepted, which was thought-provoking and emotional. Maritza was a fun character and played the sassy best friend to Yadriel very well. Julian, however, was my favorite character. His high-energy attitude and fierce care for those he loved were infectious and heartwarming. His acceptance of everyone the way they were without a second thought was beautiful, and I loved getting to witness the effect it had on Yadriel over the course of the book. I wanted the world for him as I was reading and found myself hoping for a way to bring him back from the dead even though it seemed impossible. The three of them made up a great cast of main characters, and many of the secondary characters were stand outs too.

The culture and magic central to this story are also major positive aspects of the book. I was enthralled by the brujx culture and found the power to interact with the dead utterly fascinating. The tales, history, and world-building were fantastic and provided a gripping backdrop to the story. Getting to see the inner workings of this Latinx community was a joy and a privilege, and I’m grateful to the author for writing it.

The plot of the book was interesting, yet simple. The main villain and answer to the mystery of what happened to Julian were fairly obvious pretty early. However, that didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the story because it made sense why the characters wouldn’t have figured it out any earlier. The pacing of the book was steady, for the most part, but I struggled with the first couple chapters due to all the exposition. Once it got into the action, though, the story kept going with few lulls right up until the end and kept my attention peaked. Some aspects of the end did surprise me, as did the tone of the entire novel. I expected something much darker and spookier, but it was mostly a sweet romance entwined with the struggle of finding acceptance despite one’s differences.

The story expressed several different messages, all of which were timely and important. As mentioned previously, one of the main topics of the book is acceptance; it displayed two different lessons on this point. First, the book provided a clear picture of the importance of accepting people’s differences and the impacts on an individual when they face rejection from a community important to them. Second, it also pointed out that an individual’s identity does not hinge on acceptance of others; it is based on whether the person accepts himself. Furthermore, the story exhibited the importance of accepting change, especially change in society and culture, since that is the only way to move forward and keep progressing. The book explored many other important topics, as well, including poverty, deportation, grief, and child neglect/abuse. So, there were plenty of emotional and heavy-hitting themes sprinkled throughout the narrative that kept me hooked to the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes queer romance and ghost stories. The characters are fantastically imagined and will make you fall in love with them. The culture and magic, as well as the themes and messages of the book, were all so great to read that I didn’t mind the simple, and somewhat predictable, plot. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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