A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that bestseller Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas, is set in East Los Angeles and tells the story of 16-year-old Yadriel, who faces exclusion from his brujx community of healers (women) and spirit guides (men) because he is transgender. (Bruja means witch in Spanish.) He becomes a brujo in secret, but in an attempt to locate the spirit of a deceased cousin, Yadriel accidentally gets pulled into another spirit's unresolved business. As Yadriel and the spirit, Julian, work to unravel the mystery surrounding Julian and the cousin's deaths, they enter into a doomed romance that includes a few instances of hand-holding, embraces, and kissing. Violence includes a physical attack by an evil spirit, references to shootings, and a ritual human sacrifice involving stabbing and bloodletting. Swearing includes mostly "s--t" and "hell," less frequent uses of "a--hole," "pendejo" (roughly equal to "a--hole" in Spanish), "ass," "damn," and two uses of "f--k." There are positive messages about every person's worth, the diverse nature of love, and protecting those you care about. Spanish words and phrases are used throughout; non-speakers may want to keep a device nearby for quick translations.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
CEMETERY BOYS begins as 16-year-old Yadriel, shunned by most of his Latinx brujx community because he is trans, takes matters into his own hands and successfully performs a quinces ritual on himself, becoming the brujo he knows he is. Immediately, he senses his cousin Miguel's death, and tries to summon his spirit, but accidentally summons the spirit of Julian, a classmate he barely knows, but who has also just died. Yadriel's cousin, Maritza, his ride-or-die companion, helps him and Julian try to unravel the mystery surrounding Julian and Miguel's deaths. They are on a tight deadline with Dia de Muertos just a few days away (spirits must cross over to the afterlife before being able to come back and celebrate with their families). But Yadriel and Julian still manage to grow close, sparking a doomed, slow-burn romance. A plot twist puts the entire brujx community at risk of destruction, with only Yadriel and Maritza, both still inexperienced brujx, standing in the way.
Is it any good?
This book is an enchanting tour-de-force that portrays a vibrant, diverse Latinx community rooted in tradition and led by intensely likable, decidedly not traditional characters. Cemetery Boys is a triumph in terms of casting trans and gay characters whose entire lives don't revolve around being trans and gay. Yadriel and Julian, though practically opposites, are both compelling and relatable characters that readers can identify with. They will, of course, be especially treasured by queer and trans readers who rarely see themselves cast as magical heroes.
The story is an education for those unfamiliar with Latinx culture, and a celebration for those who are. Author Aiden Thomas seamlessly weaves in cultural touchstones such as when Yadriel claims to be ill and his female relatives converge on him with home remedies like manzanilla tea, an egg to ward off the evil eye, and VapoRub. Extensive preparations for Dia de Muertos, where each element is given meaningful attention in the text, paints a colorful, lively picture of this important holiday. While some of the plot turns may be predictable, Thomas' beautiful writing, his compelling, full-of-personality characters, and tension-filled pacing makes this a must-read for just about anyone who likes a well-told story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' quests to be accepted for who they are in Cemetery Boys. How did Yadriel go about this? Where did Julian find acceptance and love before he died? What is Maritza's approach? Did you relate to any of the characters? How so?
A diverse Latinx community helps make the smaller brujx community whole, with people from many different Latin American cultures and countries. What stories or traditions did you know about already? Which ones were new to you?
Cemetery Boys uses Spanish words and phrases that are either partially translated, understood via context, or not translated at all. How did that affect your reading experience? Why do you think the author sometimes chose not to translate?
- Author: Aiden Thomas
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: SwoonReads
- Publication date: September 1, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 30, 2021
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