Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas, was published in 2020.
I downloaded it from the Sno-Isle Libraries.
Día de Meurtos is only a few days away. It will be the first since Yadriel’s mother died.
Yadriel and his cousin Maritza are sneaking into the cemetery. They are about to do something they’re not supposed to do.
The brujos patrol the cemetery to make sure that none of the spirits are causing trouble. It’s fine that the spirits of the dead roam the cemetery, even the mischievous ones, but some spirits will turn maligno if they remain in land of the living too long.
Brujos help guide spirits into the afterlife.
Yadriel wants to be a brujo. He has the talent for it. But, only boys can be brujos. Yadriel is a boy, but his family disagrees.
Yadriel is trans and gay. The way his family sees it, the fact that he’s attracted to boys proves that he’s heterosexual.
Yadriel’s mother understood. She supported him, and helped him come out to the rest of the family. She campaigned for him to be a brujo, instead of a bruja.
Among the brujx community of East Los Angeles, girls have different roles than the boys. Brujas heal. Maritza tried to be a bruja, but, as a vegan, she objected to the use of animal blood in the healing ritual.
Yadriel has recently turned sixteen. His quinces, his rite of passage, has been postponed indefinitely. He’s tired of waiting. “In order to show his family what he was, who he was, Yadriel needed to go through his own quinces ceremony – with or without their blessings.“
With Maritza’s assistance, Yadriel performs the quinces ceremony in front of Lady Death. He performs it perfectly, but the results are not what either of them expected.
Yadriel had thought he’d summoned the spirit of their cousin Miguel. Instead, he’s summoned the spirit of Julian Diaz.
Yadriel didn’t know Julian, even though they went to high school together, but he knew of Julian’s reputation. Julian was a bad kid, and possibly a gang member. Julian was a troublemaker who skipped school a lot.
Julian Diaz refuses to pass on to the afterlife until he’s sure that his friends are OK. They’d been hanging out at a park when some guy jumped them. Julian blacked out. That’s all he remembers before finding himself as a spirit inside an abandoned church.
This book is hilarious at times. I loved this part: Yadriel asks Julian to wait for him until the next morning. Julian says he doesn’t want to be left alone in a haunted church. Yadriel replies that he can’t bring Julian home with him, and, besides, the church isn’t haunted. Julian points out that he’s in the church, and he’s a ghost, therefore the church is haunted.
Yadriel learns that people don’t always deserve their reputation. Sometimes, there are unseen reasons why someone is perceived as a troublemaker.
This book is a murder mystery. Why did Miguel and Julian die within hours of each other? Why is there no trace of either of their bodies?
I loved this part, too: As Yadriel, Maritza, her dogs Donatello and Michelangelo, and Julian set off on their mystery-solving quest, Julian observes that they’re “just one redhead in go-go boots short of [their] own Scooby gang.” But Maritza objects to being Velma – she’s Fred. No, insists Julian – he’s Fred.
This book is a romance. It’s also a ghost story. The two stories mesh together well, but the combination also provides the central conflict.
“The only thing more stupid than going around his family’s back, summoning spirits, and trying to solve multiple murders would be falling for a dead boy.“
I loved all the characters in this story. Maritza is fiercely loyal to, and protective of, her best friend Yadriel. She’s more than a sidekick, however. She can stand up for herself quite well. And don’t you dare ask if her dogs are named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Tío Catriz is a great mentor to Yadriel. Julian’s friends are wonderful, surprising, and amazing.
This book has a lot to say about immigrant Latinx culture. It has a lot to say about the trans experience. (I learned quite a bit about binders.) It says it well.
This book is beautiful, moving, funny, and thoughtful.
I absolutely loved this book. I loved it a lot.
(Julian was right. It is a lot like a Scooby gang adventure.)