Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy - Romance (Paranormal/Spiritual)
Themes: Transgender identity, acceptance, transphobia, alienation/outcasts, Latinx heritage, MLM, LGBTQ+, gay, loss, immigration, deportation, police brutality.
Content Warnings: blood, sacrifice
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave.
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.
After months of seeing raving reviews about this book, I finally read it! The hype is understandable. This book has wonderful trans and gay representation folded into this story of acceptance, magic, death, sacrifice, and love. Yadriel is an introverted goodie-goodie so of course he has chemistry with Julian's outgoing "bad boy" spirit (ha! see what I did there?). Julian can be funny and annoying at the same time but is ultimately a sweetheart. How can I not like that? Maritza is equally funny and her confidence and support of Yadriel is heartwarming. The characters are definitely what made this story so enjoyable.
I read this book as a part of my October Latinx reads and while I'm glad I did, I had a little issue with the way in which Latinidad is portrayed in Cemetery Boys. Thomas begins the story with an explanation that many of the Latines (including those from the Caribbean) celebrate Día de Muertos together. This threw me off a bit as a Caribbean Latina. I've never heard of anyone celebrating this holiday in the Caribbean. There are Catholic holidays on the same dates as Día de Muertos (Nov. 1-2) but I'm not so sure about the way they described it in this book. I tried to think of this as just a fantasy that seeks to unite us as Latines. However, I feel conflicted. While I love seeing representation, I also worry that non-Latines will read this book and think that we all celebrate this holiday.
This is a fun coming-of-age book with important themes and lessons that I'd recommend to anyone from ages 10 and up.