You may be asking…Jackie, if it’s the middle of summer, why are you reading and recommending spooky books about teenagers hanging out in cemeteries? My answer to you will simply be, in my heart, it is Halloween all year round. If this sounds like you, or you are itching for more ghostly, atmospheric, LGBTQ+ urban fantasy with lovable characters, and ridiculously beautiful and skillful writing, read on!
Aiden Thomas has crafted a nuanced book on really big topics including transphobia, racism, migration, queer love and, simultaneously, the importance of friends in one’s life, the spectrum and complexity of family acceptance, and so much more! This book truly has got it all: high stakes, secrets, family trauma, grief, toothachingly sweet romance, an unsolved possible murder, spirits/goddesses/magic, and lots of witty banter.
Cemetery Boys’ protagonist is Yadriel, a Latinx trans boy living in East LA who wants more than anything to become a brujo (this translates to “sorcerer” in English) as is his family’s tradition. He wants to gain the spiritual powers to release spirits from limbo, amongst other powers. His family and community mean the world to Yadriel, but he’s so frustrated and heartbroken that after the recent loss of his mother, many of his loved ones don’t understand his identity and refuse to accept him both as a teenage boy and a brujo.
With his best friend and staunchly vegan cousin, Maritza, they decide to take matters into their own hands one night a few days before Día de Muertos and have Yadriel perform the ritual to become a brujo in secret to Lady Death, the diosa (goddess) of the afterlife who bestowed powers to his family so many generations ago. He is accepted by her and finally is granted spiritual powers.
Shortly thereafter, one of Yadriel’s other cousins, Miguel, unexpectedly and randomly dies. Each of the family members feel it and desperately start searching for his body and spirit to allow him to find peace.
Yadriel decides this is the perfect opportunity to show his family his new powers. The only trouble is, he accidentally summons the wrong spirit, bad but also angel boy Julian Diaz, who recently died and has an agenda of his own. Julian agrees to quietly go into the afterlife if Yadriel helps him get closure on what happened to his friends and how he died, but the clock is ticking for Yadriel to prove himself to his family and help Miguel’s spirit towards a peaceful afterlife, while also dealing with major butterflies from a certain bad boy spectre.
This book is so fast paced and smart but simultaneously so accessibly written for all ages. I could not put it down! All of the characters are so exquisitely written and complex, and the magic system and ticking time constraints are beyond captivating.
— Jackie M.