Review | Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

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.

I really wanted to love Cemetery Boys – after all, I’ve seen so many glowing reviews for it! – but, unfortunately, that just wasn’t meant to be.

I want to make it clear that I found the representation in Cemetery Boys to be excellent, and it was very obvious how much thought and care was put into writing these marginalized characters. I’m so glad that this book exists, that it has resonated strongly with ownvoices readers, and that it has been so successful.

The main characters were pretty charming, though they did read more like middle grade characters than your typical YA protagonists. I greatly admired Yadriel’s staunch determination to live his truth and to prove to his community that he is a brujo. He has an excellent support system in his cousin, Maritza, who sees and loves Yadriel for who he truly is.

Where Cemetery Boys fell flat for me was the plot – or, specifically, the lack of one. The book opens with a murder, stressing the importance of finding out who did it as soon as possible. As soon as Yadriel summons a spirit, though, the focus of the book shifted to watching the inevitable romance between them blossom as they went about their day-to-day lives with very little urgency. It wasn’t until the last ~10% of the book that the murder plot was picked back up, leading to a rushed and unsatisfying ending with a very predictable villain.

If I was invested in Yadriel and Julian’s relationship, this plot shift might have worked for me. Did they have some cute scenes together? Yes. But the relationship wasn’t really developed beyond quick heart-to-hearts that were sandwiched between repetitive scenes or exposition.

Overall, while I was underwhelmed by the plot, I completely understand why Cemetery Boys means so much to so many readers and I am still looking forward to reading Aiden Thomas’ next book.

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