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.
This book was soooo good! I really can’t stop gushing about it. I started it after 8pm on a Sunday night and I was over a third of the way through before I finally put it down to go to bed so that right there tells you how this story is un-put-downable. I had a really hard time stepping away from it!
Cemetery Boys is the story of Yadriel who is a trans boy living in a world where traditional roles and magic are passed down based on gender. Because of Yadriel being trans, his family and the larger brujx community, don’t accept him as a brujo. They simply don’t think that he’ll be capable of utilizing that magic and that Lady Death will not accept him as a boy. This is a lot to unpack and the more I think about it the more I’m glad this story exists. Ah, the conundrum of having a gendered magic system. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here, but I love how the magic system here is utilized to tell Yadriel’s story. He thinks that no one will accept him as a boy until he proves he’s a boy by utilizing the brujo magic. Later, Julian is like ‘but you are a boy, you don’t need anything to prove that’ and a) damn I love Julian Diaz, but b) yes, Julian is a thousand percent right. Yadriel clearly has a lot going on with his own insecurities about his identity that are being reinforced by those around him. Even unintentionally. I love how accepting Julian is and how bluntly he puts this existential crisis into perspective. We could probably all use a Julian Diaz in our lives.
Anyway, let me get back to these characters because they are the heart of this story. Yadriel is very much a typical teenager but with a little more going on because of being trans and wanting to fit into a world that’s not always open to him. I love Yadriel so much. He’s got this persistent spirit about him. He’s not going to let the world tell him he can’t do something. I do think this also gets him in trouble sometimes, especially because he stubbornly tries to handle things on his own too much without asking for help, but he’s incredibly endearing. And Julian. JULIAN. He’s funny, he’s annoying, he’s got a bit of a temper, he’s loyal to his friends, he’s caring, he’s accepting, he’s a big old softie wrapped in a tough, spikey exterior. Yeah, he’s a bit of a cactus. I love Julian so much. He really made this book. I laughed so much because of him but also felt such empathy. I mean, after all, he’s just found out he’s dead and so he has a lot to process. He spends so much of the time playing around but then you get to see him crack when he’s realizing he’s no longer a part of the world and his friends miss him.
Of course this does have a bit of a romance to it and I loved watching the relationship between Yadriel and Julian develop throughout the course of the story. I feel like at the end it was very dramatic but it was just the kind of drama I wanted and needed in my life. Give me the highest of stakes! Because the plot in this one almost feels secondary until suddenly it isn’t. The book revolves around solving two mysteries, which may or may not be related. It feels like the characters spend so much time spinning their wheels but you know what? That also felt realistic. I like how Yadriel was like ‘yeah I need to go investigate this but I have to go to school and take these tests’. Yadriel is a teenager with the right priorities lol.
Now, if I do have to slightly ding this book for one thing it’s that I figured out the twists fairly early on so they were less surprising when they were revealed. However, I did feel immense satisfaction at having figured them out so I guess that’s not really much of a negative or something that kept me from enjoying the story. There’s a good amount of foreshadowing laid down early on and then reinforced throughout the book so certain things just stood out as obvious to me. But maybe you’ll be surprised and the twists will really work for you! Maybe I’m just too good at figuring things out. 😉
There’s so much to love about this story. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, but it’s such an intensely personal story while at the same time our characters must save the world and each other. I had such a great time reading this one, I know I’ll definitely be rereading it at some point. 4.5/5 stars.