Magic, ghosts and a host of teen issues
The Cemetery Boys — Aidan Thomas (Pan Macmillan UK, $22.99) Reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books
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Yadriel is a Latinx teen living in Los Angeles.
He’s a good student and his best friend is his cousin, Maritza.
Unusually, he lives with his family in the cemetery, where his father is leader of the brujx, continuing an old Latin American spiritual practice in which tribute is paid to Lady Death, spirits wander the cemetery grounds until ready to move on and dead loved ones return each year at D´ıa de Muertos.
Life is rich and complicated for Yadriel, and that’s before we mention that he is transgender. His supportive mother has died, and his father refuses to let him go through his quinces, his coming of age ceremony, during which he will gain the ability to untether souls that need to pass on. As far as his dad is concerned it won’t work, because Yadriel was not born into a male body. The benevolent transphobia from his family is painful to read as Yadriel has to fight for his identity, not only as male, but within his community’s traditions.
Yadriel and Maritza decide to take matters into their own hands. To complicate their plans, their cousin Miguel has died a traumatic death and the brujx cannot find his body. In an offering ceremony to Lady Death, Yadriel attempts to locate Miguel, only to summon the spirit of someone else entirely — his school’s pain in the backside wild boy, Julian Diaz, unexpectedly dead and quite surprised to find himself summoned. Something weird and sinister is clearly going on. The setting is immersive. The cemetery is tucked away, a witchy, sacred oasis in the middle of East L.A. The community is bonded through their abilities, their practice, and the experience of immigrants in America — the racism, fear and constant vigilance required to get through the day.
The overwhelming sense of this story is of a sweet coming of age, a love story complicated by death, as of course Yadriel, trans and gay, reluctantly falls for Julian who is impulsive, beautiful and quite dead.
Magic, ghosts, a whole host of teen issues, and a mystery to solve before D´ıa de Muertos make this pacy story a dynamic tale for readers of around 12 and up. Hugely entertaining.
The overwhelming sense of this story is of a sweet coming of age, a love story complicated by death.