Book Review: award-winning YA novel, Cemetery Boys by trans author Aiden Thomas

By Alixandria Thomason

Cemetery Boys is a YA novel that beautifully combines slow-burn romance with supernatural goodness. The main character, Yadriel, is a queer Latinx boy who happens to be trans. He lives with his close-knit family and the spirits who wander around the cemetery on the edge of his home. His family is full of Brujos and Brujas, a generational magic that wraps around the entire story. Though Yadriel’s mother supports his journey to become a Brujo (the masculine form), most of his family can’t quite get on board. When his cousin is murdered unexpectedly, he tries to summon him to find out what happened, but accidentally summons the wrong spirit. 

From the very first chapter I was hooked. I watched Yadriel go through the little struggles that would never occur to cis people, but which trans readers may likely relate to all too well. He snags his binder on a gate as he tries to squeeze through it. He navigates subtler forms of rejection from family members who don’t outright disown him, but who also won’t adjust their perception of him as he transitions. 

Trigger warnings: The family does misgender Yadriel, and it is implied that they still call him by the wrong name (the old name itself isn’t mentioned anywhere in the book). There are also scenes containing gender dysphoria, parental death, talks of deportation, and blood magic/blood-letting. 

Despite its supernatural aspect, the story is so believable that it seems to have had to come from real life – perhaps from the author’s own experiences. The characters are well fleshed-out, and very human. The characters have nuance – no one is all good all of the time. The book’s “world-building” is detailed and dynamic, which made me want to learn more about Latinx folklore. Some of the scenes feel a bit rushed, others seem to center the romance rather than furthering the plot, but they were adorable all the same. The villain felt a little flat, but by the end of the book I was there for the character development. Cemetery Boys is definitely YA. From the way it’s written to the characters themselves, everything feels very young. 

Published September 1, 2020, Cemetery Boys quickly made it to the New York Times Bestseller List. It made history as the first book on said list written by an openly transgender author and featuring a trans character. It was named “best book of the year” by Publisher Weekly and Barnes & Noble. 

I’d give this book a 5/5 for representation, 3/5 for plot and writing style, and 5/5 for adorableness. 

Next months book: Stonewall

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