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Cemetery Boys: Queer Narratives and Changing Norms

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Coastal Carolina chapter.

TW: death, blood, transphobia, violence, parental death

“He was triumphant. He was powerful. He felt ready to take on the world. He was a brujo.”

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is a triumph of queer storytelling. The book follows transgender teen Yadriel Vélez Flores on his journey to prove himself to his family of brujx. When trying to perform his coming-of-age ceremony in secret, he summons the ghost of Julian Diaz. Now he has to figure out why Julian’s ghost is here and how to make sure his family does not find out he performed his ceremony in secret while the most important brujx holiday, Día de los Muertos, is just around the corner. Yadriel must band together with his best friend Martzia and Julian’s friends to figure out what happened and release Julian to the spirit world to prove to the other brujx that Yadriel is one of them. 

“He was tired of forgiving. He was tired of fighting to just exist and be himself.” 

Yadriel comes from a long line of brujx. The brujx have the powers of life and death granted to them from Lady Death or Santa Muerte. They can sense illness and injury in the living and see and communicate with the dead. Brujx society is gendered which is the crux of Yadriel’s problems with his coming of age in his family and ceremonially. The brujos have protajes that are daggers of some sort that help them cut the thread binding spirits to the earth and help them into the afterlife. Alternatively, brujas have rosaries that assist them with healing. Due to Yadriel’s transition not fitting into the traditional roles of brujx society, his family does not let him have his quinces ceremony that would bind him to his protaje and make him an official brujo. He and his best friend Martzia decide that he should do it anyways in secret, but things go awry when he somehow summons Julian. Julian is a charming boy from school with a bad reputation and a tight-knit group of friends. Julian and Yadriel were not in each other’s spheres before but with the mystery of how Julian died lingering, they have to work together to find out what happened and make sure his friends are okay. 

“He was a boy made of fire who’d been turned to frost. He was meant to burn.” 

The group of teenagers battle life, the supernatural, family, and friendship throughout the book. It is as humorous as it is emotional and moving. Both Yadriel and Julian’s struggles with family and belonging are relatable and real for not only queer or Latinx individuals, but anyone who has struggled with identity and fitting in. Cemetery Boys highlights the importance of queer narratives and fighting against tradition when it no longer fits the needs of society. 

“Growth isn’t a deviation from what we’ve done before, but a natural progression to honor all those who make this community strong.”

Cemetery Boys was Thomas’s debut novel in 2020 and since its release, it has made history by being on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was the first book by an openly transgender author featuring a transgender character to make the list. Thomas has since published Lost in the Never Woods and The Sunbearer Trials in 2021 and 2022 respectively. There is also a plan for a Cemetery Boys sequel in 2024, so the brujx story does not end with these 300 pages. 

“No, it wasn’t the end. It was a better beginning.” 

Avery Griffin

Coastal Carolina '23

Avery is a senior Marine Science major, with an English minor. She is a queer woman interested in social justice, reading (or increasing her TBR), coffee, tea, and exploring nature and whatever else Myrtle Beach can offer. Her writings mostly consist of book reviews and some culture.