Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Yadriel is determined to demonstrate to his family that, even if he is a transgender, he can still be a brujo. One night, with the help of his cousin Maritza, he performs the rite to become a brujo in front of Lady Death. The same night, his cousin Miguel is killed but Yadriel’s family can’t find his body. Yadriel takes this dramatic situation as a chance to demonstrate to his family that the ritual to become a brujo was successful, despite him being a transgender, and decides to invoke Miguel’s ghost. He and Maritza have a chance to find Miguel’s body and find out how he died. Except that, the ghost Yadriel summons, is not Miguel, but Julian, a schoolmate with a wild reputation for being part of a gang and known as someone to absolutely avoid. Yadriel is forced to spend time with Julian and he finds out that Julian’s disappearance is somehow connected with Miguel’s.
I so wanted to love this one, but it was a bit of a letdown. I am 100% aware that I am not the target audience for this story and I strongly believe that this book is a massive contribution to the transgender community. I will just present my general opinion as a reader who consumes whatever book that appears in front of her eyes. My main issue with Cemetery Boys was the incongruent plot and the poor character development. This story is completely told from Yadriel’s perspective, and you get to experience his struggles of coming out to a strongly old-fashioned and traditional Latinx mentality. Even more, I loved how the discussion around the usage of a binder was introduced and normalised into the plot. But, apart from being transgender nothing else transpired about Yadriel. Same for the other side character, Yadriel’s cousin Maritza. She had some feminist traits in the beginning when she refused fat-shaming talks and I was expecting that in some way that discussion would have been picked up, but it was over. We just find out that she has pink hair and she is vegan, and that’s it, which is a shame since she is a great part of the story.
I felt that the plot was initially built around a mysterious murder, then, it was completely abandoned to focus on the relationship between Yadriel and Julian. The writing was flat, sometimes with lengthy descriptions of the Mexican culture (sometimes too much), and on the whole, jumpy. Even Yadriel wasn’t consistent in his actions or thoughts. The plot was absolutely predictable at the very beginning, which was the biggest let down for me. It started as a fantasy, mystery story and then for a big part of it becomes a contemporary romance, completely forgetting to investigate Miguel’s mysterious murder and disappearance. In the end, everything goes back to being a story about ghosts, with a super-fast resolution.
I think probably the focus of this book was too much on bringing a main queer character into the YA scene, instead of focusing on the whole plot or building secondary characters. It felt like the writer was missing an editor’s guidance on where and how to lead the plot. Nevertheless, it contains important points of discussion, like coming out to a very traditional, closed-minded family, deportation and family abuse. I appreciate the massive importance of this book for the LGBT+ community, together with the massively detailed Latinx representation. So, I still strongly recommend this book for what it is, a brilliant combination of transgender main character in a Latinx cultural setting, all built around a sweet love story between a guy and a ghost.