Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
“Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.”
I’ve never been one for horror, but I do love a good ghost story, and this one certainly delivers. Being squarely within the YA fantasy realm, with Maya death gods, magic, and plenty of ghosts, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.
I will admit after reading the synopsis that while I was excited to read Cemetery Boys, I was also afraid it would be one of those heart wrenching books that haunt you for the rest of eternity. A living MC falling in love with a ghost boy? That sounded like a recipe for heartbreak to me. Because of my preconceptions, I spent a good 90% of the book in a state of stress, waiting for the moment Julian would be released or turn maligno, all while frantically trying to come up with alternate scenarios that did not involve Julian dying…like, permanently.
This book is in part a mystery, which was yet another reason for me to love it. Though subtle, I managed to figure out half of the mystery early on, but I didn’t suspect the rest of it until near the climax of the book. I found myself more disappointed then triumphant when my guess proved right, because, well, that’s a spoiler. I’ll just say some people I thought were good turned out to be…not so good. As for the climax–what a climax that was. For a while I was genuinely worried none of the main characters, or the side characters also involved, would make it out alive. Even with an hour and twenty minutes left to go*, I was almost certain things would not get fixed.
And then–wow. I did not expect that ending, but I loved it. It was the ending I’d barely dared hope for. Yadriel, Julian, and Maritza found their strengths and things turned out much better than I had believed possible. As someone who’s always preferred the “happily ever after” flavor of endings, I always like a story better when it ends on a good note. Namely with minimal main character death, the Big Bad vanquished (unless we’re talking series), and no depressingly broken relationships. Though I’d expected the ending to make or break Cemetery Boys for me, I didn’t expect it to win me over so thoroughly.
One thing I particularly loved in the writing was how masterfully Thomas mixed Spanish and English together. As a pathetically monolingual English speaker, I was afraid I’d be running for a translator every time Spanish came up in the book. Instead, I found that the context surrounding even the longest Spanish dialogue was enough I could follow the story without needing to stop and translate it. I’m sure I would have a better and deeper understanding of the story if I knew more than the gist of the Spanish, but for a first reading I was amazed at how much I understood without properly learning Spanish or using a translator.
Another thing I found fascinating was the juxtaposition of Julian’s personality. Outwardly, he perfectly fit the “bad boy” archetype seen so often in YA fiction, but aside from his quick temper, his real personality was shown to be completely different. Instead of the morose, sardonic disposition usual of this archetype, Julian was basically a human golden retriever. Enthusiastic, full of life, and will definitely trash your room when not supervised.
Often when a book lands on my “most anticipated” list, my high expectations lead to disappointment once I finally read it, especially with debut books (like this one) where I have no prior knowledge of the author to base my expectations on. However, despite my fears during most of the book I thoroughly enjoyed it, including the nail-biting climax I can only envy as a writer. Cemetery Boys managed the difficult leap from my “most anticipated” to “best books” list with flying colors. I’ll definitely be reading more from Aiden Thomas, once their next book hits the shelves. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
*Note: I do most of my reading via audiobooks, so if I reference a certain part of a book I use time rather than page numbers. Since I actually have no clue what page I’d be on.