Book Review: Cemetery Boys

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

Kicking off 2022 with a good one! This was a book I didn’t even know I needed but I SO very much did. I love the YA Fantasy genre and while Cemetery Boys is that, it is so much more. Blending a storyline that is unlike others in this genre I’ve read (but at the same time familiar, if that makes any sense), with strong character development and immersion into the Latinx culture, this book grabbed me after the first 10 pages and didn’t let me go.

Over and over in this book, the author gets world-building, storytelling and character creation SO RIGHT, and the MCs of Yadriel and Julian aren’t cookie-cutter stereotypes but are real people trying to make their way in a world that wants to marginalize them or stick them back into a box in which they don’t fit. I appreciated that the author didn’t gloss over Yadriel’s struggles of being a trans and gay youth, including feeling out of place most of the time, including in what should be a safe space with his family. You realize how many subtle comments or offhand remarks while not specifically meant to hurt, do, in fact, hurt and hurt a lot – and how important it is to take the time to understand and listen to what someone is trying to say about who they are in the world. Julian also has his own issues with regards to absent parents, being gay and having so much energy that it’s bursting out of him, even when he’s a ghost.

The Latinx community these characters live in is also brought to life, with the vibrant energy of the Dio De Los Muertos festival, the history of various cultures, and the close-knit families in the community. Tossed into this mix are references to food (I now need candied pumpkin in my life), music, and ancient legends involving large black jaguars. If all that isn’t enough, add in a ghost story and a sweet romance, which are the icing on this already wonderful cake, and I fell in love with this book, start to finish.

Highly recommended, 4-1/2 out of 5 star read.

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