Cemetery Boys

by Aiden Thomas

Hardcover, 2020



Call number



Swoon Reads (2020), Edition: First American Edition, 352 pages


Yadriel, a trans boy, summons the angry spirit of his high school's bad boy, and agrees to help him learn how he died, thereby proving himself a brujo, not a bruja, to his conservative family.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
A trans boy who wants to be a brujo accidentally summons the wrong dead spirit, a young cis man who is definitely not reconciled to being dead; he and his vegan best friend—who refuses to perform bruja magic because it requires animal blood—have to figure out how to deal with a mysterious death
Show More
and also with the hot ghost while navigating magical family/community that isn’t really sure how to treat their children who aren’t doing things the usual way. The villain is pretty obvious. No transphobic violence (but a few references to harassment and a couple of family members misgender the protagonist, albeit not as a matter of policy/consistently).
Show Less
LibraryThing member greeniezona
Listen. I am still a little salty about this because I was promised by multiple people the coziest, most trans-affirming love story wrapped in a fantasy/mystery, and while this may have gotten there by the end, it starts out in some pretty intense transphobic angst, and my heart was feeling fragile
Show More
enough at the time that I almost DNFed this.

I think this novel's depiction of the in-between place of a family's trans-acceptance is important and vital, and I'm glad it's in the world. I just wish I'd had the warning that this starts out as a bit of a tough hang, thought it gets to an affirming place in the end, and all of it gets a heck of a lot more bearable once Julian shows up.

This is a powerful story of identity and perception and acceptance, with ghosts and magic and Latinx culture and superficial high school reputations and fast cars and the beach and colonialism and the Mortifying Ordeal of Being Perceived and again, the richness of Latinx culture.

This was lovely. BUT NOT COZY.
Show Less
LibraryThing member krau0098
Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I borrowed from the library.

Story (4/5): This was fine but I didn't love it. I enjoyed the inclusion of some of the Mexican traditions and the characters were fine. I just felt like not a lot happened here and the story never had any urgency. It
Show More
is mostly a mystery where Yadriel and his family are trying to find a missing cousin. It was incredibly easy to predict who the "villain" was and the big twist at the end wasn't really much of a twist...just the plot playing out exactly like you expected it to.

Characters (4/5): All but a tiny portion of the story is told from Yadriel’s POV. Yadriel is trans and really wants to go through the coming of age ceremony that all the other boys go through. However, his father is having trouble believing that the person who used to be his young daughter will be accepted by Lady Death as a brujo and granted powers over ghosts. Yadriel and his family both grow a lot throughout the book, as both his father and extended family learn to accept Yadriel’s identity. We meet a number of other characters throughout the story as well and they were decently done. I will say though that I never engaged with any of these characters all that well and they all felt a bit one dimensional to me.

Setting (3/5): This book and story takes place around and about LA, most of it takes place in graveyards around that area. The setting was fine but never all that well described, the settings just didn’t really come alive for me and pull me in.

Writing Style (3/5): This book was slow and the pacing just felt off. 90% of the book has a very "day in the life feel to it" and moves very deliberately; it deals a lot with Yadriel’s day to day struggles and school life. The last 10% (or maybe even less) is super intense and action packed and deals a lot more with death magic. I just felt like this wandered so much and could have had a much more interesting and tighter plot. This book had a lot of potential but just ended up kind of "blah".

My Summary (3.5/5): Overall I am a little confused by why this book has such high reviews. Yes, it does a decent job portraying a gay transgender character but the story itself was lacking. I think the book as a total package could have used some work. Technically it is decently written and it is easy enough to read; I just didn't find it all that interesting. I did get Aiden Thomas's next book “Lost in the Never Woods” to review as well, so hopefully I will enjoy that one more than I enjoyed this one.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Hccpsk
I appreciate all of the books recently that represent and celebrate characters for their differences without it needing to be the main focus of the story. In Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Yadriel may be trans, but his real problem is the ghost he can’t get rid of and the mysterious deaths
Show More
occurring around him. Yes, his father struggles with his identity, but most of the people in Yadriel’s life accept him. This is a crazy story about a community of Latinx who communicate with the dead with a lot of magical realism, cultural identity, and family bond themes mixed in. Recommended for YA readers looking for something mystical and mystery-laden with the thread of gender identity woven through.
Show Less
LibraryThing member reader1009
diverse teen fiction (Latinx trans boy whose family practices spirit magic; #ownvoices author is also trans Latinx).

the plot was pretty good, but the characters here are what make the story really shine. A fun, ghost-filled read with plenty of action and a fair amount of (M-M) romance.
LibraryThing member nifflerslibrary
This has elements of being an #ownvoices book for both the author Aiden Thomas and narrator Avi Roque (who does a fantastic job). ⁠

Cemetery Boys has a slow start but quickly grabs the attention of the reader as the story unfolds. This was a fantastic book. Lots of rich details and cultures
Show More
folded into a multifaceted mystery with a touch of romance.⁠


What if you summoned a ghost but couldn't get rid of him?⁠

Author Aiden Thomas saw the writing prompt in a social media post and Cemetery Boys grew from there.⁠

All Yadriel wants is to be recognized by his father and his community as a brujx and to see his mother again during the Dia de Los Muertes celebration this year. As a trans boy, Yadz has trouble getting his father, the leader of his community, to recognize that he belongs with the rest of the brujx who can see ghosts and help them cross to the other side. When a family member suddenly goes missing and his body can't be found Yadriel and his best friend Maritza take the opportunity to prove to their families that they have what it takes to be part of their community. As they start their own search for answers, things quickly go awry. They summon a ghost, but it's not the one they're looking for. They offer to help him make sure his friends are okay, but the more time they spend helping Julian get his affairs in order, the more questions they have and the more complicated they realize the problem is. ⁠
Show Less
LibraryThing member LisCarey
Yadriel is a Latinx teenager with a traditional family, and hopes to be a true brujo. He's got the talent. He's of an age to have the ceremony pledging himself to Lady Death, and becoming a true brujo.

The problem: Yadriel's very traditional family is convinced he's their daughter, not their son.
Show More
They expect him to become a bruja, a form of magic for which he has no gift. Finally, with the help of his best friend, his cousin Maritza, he performs the ritual himself--successfully. Lady Death, at least, accepts him as a real brujo.

But he still has to prove it to his family and the rest of their community. The sudden death and disappearance of another cousin provides a chance to provide that proof while doing real good for the community.

He sets out to summon his cousin's ghost.

Instead, he summons the ghost of a fellow high school student who is a bit of a bad boy, rumored to be a gang member--and now recently dead. The ghost, Julian Diaz, wants to know what happened to him, and if his friends are all right. He absolutely refuses to be released to the next world until he does.

Yadriel thinks just being trans and refusing to hide it is enough of an attention-getter, and tries to otherwise keep a low profile. Julian is loud, ostentatious, and loves attracting attention. And while sometimes Maritza is helpful (in Yadriel's opinion), other times she seems to be egging Julian on.

Meanwhile, Yadriel's cousin Miguel is clearly dead (the entire brujo/bruja community felt it), and his body is missing. It needs to be found, so that Miguel's spirit can be released to the next world.

Julian's body is also missing. His friends don't know he's dead, though they're worried because he's missing. And, it seems, so are two other young people, with no indication of what happened to them.

And Yadriel's abuelita, as part of her preparation for the celebration of the Day of the Dead, is looking for an old magical relic, one with dark implications, but which needs to be present.

None of these things are as unconnected as they at first appear.

We get a fascinating look at Latinx beliefs and practices around the Day of the Dead, in a fantasy setting that's rich and detailed and absorbing. The characters are well-developed, and the story itself completely drew me in. I'd had doubts at first, but once I started reading, it was hard to put down despite some pretty disruptive and distracting events going on in my own life. I just had to find out what happened!

Highly recommended.

I received this book as part of the 2021 Hugo Voters Packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.
Show Less
LibraryThing member oldandnewbooksmell
Trigger Warnings: Misgendering, deadnaming, death of a loved one, loss of parent, some descriptions of self-harm (for ritualistic purposes), and mention of parental abuse, transphobic parents, and deportation

Even though his traditional Latinx family has trouble accepting his gender, Yadriel is
Show More
determined to prove him to be a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend, Maritza, he performs the brujo ritual himself and is blessed by Lady Death.

When he tries to find the ghost of his murdered cousin to set him free, he instead summons Julian Diaz, the school's resident bad boy, who's not about to die without a fight. He's determined to find out what happened and to check on his friends. Without another option, Yadriel agrees to help Julian so they can both get what they want: Julian to tie up loose ends and for Yadriel to set Julian's soul free so he can prove to his family he's a true brujo. But, the more time Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants him to leave.

Reading this book was a joy. Though Yadriel was the main character, I very much enjoyed Maritza (such a badass) and Julian (what a firecracker) - they were all instantly lovable and worked well with each other - even if they did bicker.

The story was very character-driven, which I think is why I enjoyed it as much as I did, especially because I was able to figure out both the villain and the storyline pretty early on. But again, because of the characters and the message behind Yadriel's story, I really enjoyed this novel. Julian's chosen family trope is really well done and cute and I just wanted to hug them all!

I really enjoyed reading a queer fantasy with a trans main character - it's not something you get to read about right now (though times are changing). This novel also portrays a great variety of Latinx cultures. It's a great read for all ages.
Show Less
LibraryThing member fionaanne
Didn't even make it to the end of the first chapter; I'd heard so many rave reviews but blood magic and ghosts are not my jam. Especially currently.
LibraryThing member rgruberexcel
RGG: Fascinating premise--Trans, Gay youth in a community of Brujx in East LA; urban fantasy that falls flat in the writing. Reading Interest: 13-YA. Lots of kissing, but nothing more explicit.
LibraryThing member Stevil2001
I acknowledge that a high school romance novel is very much Not For Me, but even allowing for that, I didn't enjoy that much. The central idea—about the secret brujx who can communicate with the dead, and the main character, a trans boy whose family won't let him be a brujo—is a good one, but
Show More
this book just rambles with no purpose for a long time. Basically, the main character rescues a hot ghost who also goes (went, I guess) to his high school, and they are supposedly working together to figure out how he died, but they learn literally nothing of use after chapters and chapters of investigations. And then after that slow build-up, the murderer just reveals himself, and the action is over in a single chapter. Most of the focus is on the developing relationship, which is eminently predictable.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Tikimoof
So there were some nice ideas in there. I really liked how the magic affirmed Yadriel's gender. I didn't love how the family, steeped in such magic, didn't listen to it, but I guess the real world isn't logical either.

I liked the context clues on the Spanish. Some of it was a bit awkward, but it
Show More
was a nice idea.

But I just do not like this type of YA fiction. I'm sure someday we will get to the point where we can do Latinx fantasy that isn't awkwardly explaining how the culture works in huge chunks of expository dialogue, but this book was not that. And again, I think some of that goes with the brand of YA that this is.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sarahlh
Short version: Read this book. Please? Read this book? For the love of God, read this book.

Long(er) version: A wonderful, beautifully written story about a trans Latinx boy who, while in the process of making himself a brujo, something his community has denied him for so long, accidentally summons
Show More
the spirit of a teenage bad boy - and oh yeah, he and the spirit totally fall in love. And there is magic, mischief, mysteries and heartache, and ghosts and spirits and traditions broken and born anew, and there are dogs and skateboards and Takis and reggaeton and beach parties and kissing and literal gods and what else do y'all need?

Yadriel and Julian are my everything, and I hope you will love them as much as I do. Please read CEMETERY BOYS.
Show Less
LibraryThing member clrichm
This was so good! My only regret (a very small one) is that by listening to the audiobook instead of reading the print version, I got a little lost on some of the parts where the characters spoke in Spanish. Would have been nice in those moments to have the characters give me a few more context
Show More
clues to let me figure out what was said, but it would have been much less of a problem reading instead of listening, so I don't fault the writer. I figure out midway through who was behind Miguel's death and the other strangeness, but I did NOT anticipate how the whole thing would wrap up, so I really enjoyed the surprise! Warm fuzzies for Yadrian!
Show Less
LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
In Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas, Yadriel struggles to prove his identity as a trans boy to his “conservative” family. Meanwhile, he calls up the ghost of Julian and tries to find his murderer. This had a fantastic premise, though I felt the action slowed considerably several times as Yadriel
Show More
explored his identity.
Show Less
LibraryThing member purplepaste
This was a really fun read that reminded me of other books I love (Halloween Tree, Sabriel). The characters felt fully realized and realistic. They made choices true to the personalities given. I was also pleased with the gender and tradition discussions throughout. They felt “earned” and not
Show More
preachy or wedged in. They were also vital to the plot. Bonus points for the most realistic pit bull descriptions I’ve read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Anniik
TW/CW: Death of a parent, mentions of transphobia, death, scary sequences


REVIEW: Cemetery Boys is the story of a young Latinx transman named Yadriel who is trying to make his way in the patriarchal magic community in which he has been raised. He summons the ghost of a young man named
Show More
Julian Diaz and the two work together to find Julian’s family and friends before he passes on. In the meantime, romance blossoms between Julian and Yadriel…

I thought that this was a good book. I enjoyed reading it. I thought that the magical world Thomas created seemed complex and interesting, and I thought the characters were sympathetic. Maybe this is just because I’m not a teenager, but I would have loved to learn more about the world and have a little less teenage romance angst, but that’s just me.

I recommend this book to fans of YA fantasy!
Show Less
LibraryThing member Yggie
Cute YA read, quite liked the setting and the characters. First 80% were very slow, last 20% were SUPER INTENSE IMPORTANT CHAOS FIERCE PROTECTIVENESS what?

Back when I actually was the target demographic I would probably have loved the shit out of this
LibraryThing member Dairyqueen84
An interesting story told from a unique perspective - a transgender boy of Latinx background. Even though I know some Spanish, I wish some of the Spanish phrases were translated into English.
LibraryThing member sylliu
Cemetery Boys is a deliciously magical story of Yadriel, a trans Latinx who needs to prove to his traditional family of brujos that he is a brujo who can summon and help dead spirits pass to the afterlife. When, in an effort to investigate his cousin's murder, he accidentally summons the spirit of
Show More
Julian, a chaotic bad boy, things get wild fast. Yadriel and his best friend Maritza are drawn into the mystery of both boys' deaths, and Yadriel finds himself falling for Julian's ghost. Yadriel must navigate the growing and heady romance between them and his family's pressures to conform to traditional gender roles. The descriptions of the Day of the Dead celebrations and brujx culture are fascinating and add to the immersive magic. All of the storylines come together in a thrilling and unexpected climax. Highly recommended!
Show Less
LibraryThing member BarnesBookshelf
My favorite thing about reading a new book is the feeling of falling in love with it for the first time. This book was no different.

This is a perfect October read! I loved the combination of many different Latinx cultures referenced, and how each one is celebrated in a little way. Thomas does an
Show More
excellent job covering important issues like the Trans experience and dealing with police as a Latinx person. I love how Yadriel and Julian's relationship grows over the course of the novel, and how well the magic is woven into a modern-day society. I would love to see more of Yadriel and Julian in the future, but I do feel that their story is most likely over with this book. However, I will eagerly read Thomas's future books!
Show Less


National Book Award (Longlist — 2020)
Bram Stoker Award (Nominee — Young Adult Novel — 2020)
Green Mountain Book Award (Nominee — 2022)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2023)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Recommended — 2023)
Colorado Blue Spruce Award (Nominee — 2022)
Otherwise Award (Honor List — 2021)
NCSLMA Battle of the Books (High School — 2022)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — High School — 2022)
Evergreen Teen Book Award (Nominee — High School — 2023)
Rhode Island Teen Book Award (Nominee — 2022)
ALA Rainbow Book List (Selection — 2021)
CYBILS Awards (Winner — Young Adult Speculative Fiction — 2020)
North Star YA Award (Nominee — 2022)
James Cook Teen Book Award (Winner — 2021)
Lodestar Award (Nominee — 2021)
All Connecticut Reads (Shortlist — 2022)
Nerdy Book Award (Young Adult Literature — 2020)
Project LIT Book Selection (Young Adult — 2023)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

352 p.; 8.65 inches


1250250463 / 9781250250469
Page: 2.3252 seconds