This was such a fun, witchy, and ghosty read! It follows our main character Yadriel, a sixteen-year-old Latinx boy born into a family of witches or “Brujos and Brujas.” He’s hoping to partake in a ceremony in which he’ll become an office Brujo, a ritual overseen by Lady Death herself. However, the problem is that his traditional family is having a difficult time accepting his gender, and they deny him the ceremony.
So Yadriel, determined to prove to himself and to his family that he’s a real Brujo, performs the ritual himself. But to be a true Brujo, he needs to find a ghost and set it free. He decides to summon the spirit of his murdered cousin Miguel; however, the summoning didn’t quite go as he planned, and he ends up summoning Julian Diaz, the school’s snarky resident bad boy. Julian refuses to break set free until he can find out what happened to him, how he died. Yadriel has no choice but to help the rebellious boy because the sooner he finds out what happened to Julian, the sooner he can release him and become an official Brujo. But the more time he spends with Julian, the more he wants him to stay.
Oh, and there’s also an evil villain who may or may not bring about the end of the world.
This was such a clever and unique plot with a compelling mystery to solve as well. I also loved the developing relationship between Yadriel and Julian, and there was plenty of witty banter and bickering between them that had me laughing out loud several times. I truly enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters — they just felt so genuine to me as well as purposeful.
But I will say that my heart broke for Yadriel, who desperately craved to be accepted by his family and his community. Though his family wasn’t unlikable by any means, they were extremely traditional, so Yadriel had quite a task in tearing down those patriarchal walls built up over generations and show them that you can combine the traditional with the modern. Though, to be fair, they did use his chosen name and his correct pronouns, but some traditions were so firmly entrenched that they were unwilling to budge.
Though the book’s overall tone was light, the author touched on some serious and heartbreaking themes, such as homophobia, transphobia, deadnaming, misgendering, gang violence, teen homelessness, child abuse, deportation, and racism. So that being said, there were definitely some difficult and heartbreaking moments in the story.
Now, I love books about Latinx culture, identity, and mythology, so I enjoyed learning about this family of witches who lives in a cemetery and who commune with the local spirits, setting them free when necessary. I especially enjoyed reading about Yadriel’s family and their history and journeying along with them as they prepared for the Día de Muertos celebration.
That being said, I loved the book’s heavy focus on family and friendship. Additionally, though Yadriel being trans is the basis of the plot, the book is not solely about his difficulties in that regard, but at its core, Cemetery Boys is a lovely romance between a boy and a ghost, a romance which was extremely well-done in my opinion.
All in all, I thought this book was a wonderfully diverse, affirming, atmospheric, and well-written paranormal urban fantasy with delightful characters and a heart-warming slow-burn romance. I sure hope this author continues to write and look forward to seeing what they’ll come out with in the future.