Thomas, Aiden. Cemetery Boys. Swoon Reads, 2020. 352p. ISBN: 9781250250469. $15.99. AT *****
Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family has struggled to accept his identity as a trans guy. In his family of brujx, teen boys perform a ritual as they come of age, but his father has refused to let Yadriel move forward with it. Determined to make his family see his identity, Yadriel performs the ritual himself—and accidentally summons a ghost. The ghost he’s summoned is that of Julian Diaz, local bad boy, and Yadriel has no choice but to hide Julian while he figures out how to get rid of him. As they spend more time together, Yadriel begins to realize he doesn’t want Julian to disappear.
Debut author Aiden Thomas has easily become a new favorite of mine with this absolutely perfect YA paranormal romance. The cemetery setting is perfectly atmospheric, and the novel is rich with Latinx culture. The trans and Latinx representation are #OwnVoices; the cast is almost entirely Latinx, and has a variety of queer and trans characters. The romance between Yadriel and Julian is absolutely swoon-worthy and this ghost love interest wonderfully reminded me of Meg Cabot’s Mediator series.
Cemetery Boys also has a hefty dose of mystery: strange things are happening in the cemetery where Yadriel’s family lives, and he must figure out where these dark forces are coming from. This plotline will keep readers guessing and turning page after page. This novel also touches on complex themes like grief (Yadriel has recently lost his mother), identity, gendered expectations, friendship, and family (both blood and chosen).
Cemetery Boys is appropriate for teens of all ages. I’ll be recommending it to readers who enjoy paranormal romance and fans of Zoraida Córdova or Daniel José Older. This is a must-have for all YA collections, and Aiden Thomas should definitely be on all teen librarians’ must-buy list.
–Ari Nussbaum, Hayward Public Library