Monday, March 1, 2021

Cemetery Boys - Aiden Thomas

Summary: 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. (summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: This book had a lot of cool things going for it. I really enjoyed the exploration of LatinX culture. The idea of a group of brujx who inherit the ability to escort dead souls to the beyond is super awesome. I loved the background of this concept—so much history and cultural relevance. I really liked it. I especially enjoyed the connection to Dia de los Muertos and the connection to ancestors who have passed on. I loved the family bond that this family explored and created, and I think that it set a really good backdrop for the conflict in this book.

Yadriel “Yads” is a trans boy who wants to be part of the brujx, but being biologically female has caused some problems for his acceptance into his very traditional family. This is explored a lot—the love that his family has, the culture that his family has, and the powers they have inherited. I like how Thomas was able to use these connections in the family to create conflict and a storied discussion of being trans in a very traditional family. The thing that was great about this family is they have a lot of love for each other, and even though many members were not able to connect to the difficulties of being trans right away, it did provide a nice backdrop of a loving family who wants to understand and tries to do what is right, but is sometimes confused or not able to understand a new point of view. I think this is the situation that a lot of trans teens find themselves in today—a loving family who is maybe misguided or not able to understand, yet they have the best interest of their child at heart. Ultimately, I hope this book can help some readers understand where their parents (or children) are coming from and help them understand how to forge a discussion.

There was some fun action in this book, especially at the end. There is an epic fight scene, and truthfully, I wish the whole book was more like that. I understand that part of the book is about the relationship between Yadriel and the ghost he brings back, and so a lot of that has to be discussed, but ultimately it just seemed to drag on and not actually bring that much to the story as a whole. I don’t think it even developed their relationships. Thomas obviously hoped that it would, but the situations they faced didn’t seem like ones that would bring them together if they were both alive, and so having one dead didn’t necessarily strengthen it either. When the end comes and there is a strong relationship between the two, it seemed a little contrived.

Overall I would have liked a lot more discussion about the back story of the brujo. They were super interesting, and clearly powerful, and although there was some discussion of it, I feel like there was a missed opportunity of a really cool backstory because we were following two teens around who are infatuated with each other. I realize this shows my age, but really, it’s a missed opportunity! (And now I must go eat my early bird special…)

This book was interesting and has a cool backstory. I think that maybe Thomas took on too much and wasn’t able to tackle it all. That being said, I think that the YA audience will enjoy it and will be able to overlook these execution issues.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language, some gore, and some discussion of sex.

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