Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Book Review

Author Information

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, useless trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Book Description

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his 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 up 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.

Review

Thank You to The Clever Reader for ensuring this book got into the hands of an own voices reviewer by passing along this book to me so that I could get a chance to read and review it early.

There are so many things to love about this book right from the start of it, well actually more like right from reading the blurb about it. I loved this book right from knowing the protagonist was a gay, Latinx, transgender guy. Books that have so many of my identities in one character are rare to find so I was just happy to be able to see myself in something that I was reading.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the conflict that Yadriel has with the love he has for his family and their unwillingness to accept him as a brujo. There is a portion where Julian questions who Yadriel is trying to be enough for and I put down the book to cry my eyes out at this. My family is so important to me and I feel like I hide so much of myself or make adjustments to who I am to be enough for them without questioning if I am now not being enough for myself. It is such a hard feeling to put into words but that scene just captured so many feelings in a few words.

I love the world building and the character development in this book. Each scene was well crafted and I could picture things as they were happening. The characters all had vivid descriptions of them and they all were easily identifiable. I loved how Yads changes through the course of the book as he learns to love not only someone else but himself as well. I thought that was such an important aspect that this book shows and really was the most important part to this book.

Dia De Muertos is not something that I am entirely familiar with as American culture was what was emphasized for me growing up so I don’t know the traditions of where my parents are from. I love getting to read about this holiday though because each book has a different way of describing it even though it comes down to being about celebrate our loved ones who have passed.

Books can usually make me tear up but not full on cry but this book had to be put down because of the tears. There is so much emotions packed into the last few pages of this book and I just couldn’t get enough. Not only are the last few pages packed with emotions but you get one twist right after another which I really enjoyed.

I really hope that you all go out and read this book that means so much to me. You can pre-order this book at:

Eso Won Books ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ The Book Depository ~ Kobo ~ Google

To check out an interview with the author, Aiden Thomas, learn more about them and their debut novel, click here.

We Are not From Here ARC Book Review

GoodReads Summary: A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pulga has his dreams.
Chico has his grief.
Pequeña has her pride.

And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.
In this powerful story inspired by current events, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to painful, poignant, vivid life. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Young Readers Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I’ve only ever thought of the U.S. as my home. My parents are from Mexico and El Salvador but my mom came here when she was a toddler. My dad remembers El Salvador as he came here when he was older. I read books like this one not only to learn but also to reflect and really think about the privilege that I have being born in the U.S., having parents who speak English, and having parents who became U.S. citizens when I was a kid. I do not know the experience of migrants from any country, I know my parents experience and even that I find limited. The only way for me to learn more is through listening to others and it is important that I stop and listen.

Overall Thoughts: I really enjoy how Pulga, Pequena, and Chico are keeping secrets from each other and their family. What i liked about their secrets is that the same person is at the root of these secrets and all of their problems.

Something else that I like about this book is the pacing and how long these days seem. I think that as you read you get a sense of how long this time feels for the characters as they live these things.

I think that it is important that this book shows the reality of immigration and the many challenges that come with it. It was important to see three different scenarios as to what can happen throughout that journey and they included the addition of Pequena being female and what that meant for her. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I felt that so much of that is impactful and important to think about when we hear stories of immigration. I thought it was important that it also relayed the reasons why people were fleeing their countries and what kept them moving forward.

Part One: This book starts off with introducing you to the three main characters of this story. It does this by going back and forth between Pulga and Pequena’s point of view. In this portion of the book you find out a little about each character’s circumstances and why they need to leave their home town.

I really like how this book slowly introduces you to the characters and builds their back story. I like that you get to see the relationships that they have with each other and with people they are leaving behind.

Part Two: This part tells the majority of these kids story as they go from Guatemala to Mexico. This tells of the people they encounter and the things they do for a chance to get to the United States. Through this section you see more about each character and learn their fears about staying or leaving the place they live in.

I kept reading about La Bestia in this book and never really looked into it until I asked my mom about it. She searched it on Google and then spoke to me about a news segment she saw I n which this train was covered. I thought it was important to look into this and see what the reality is for people trying to migrate into the United States.

I have heard both my mom and dad’s story of how they got to the United States and they have very different stories from each other. Fascinating and interesting aren’t the right words but I do think it is important to see the differences in ways immigrants come to the United States. I thought it was good to reflect and think about my privilege in being born in the U.S and never having to really fear being sent to a place where my life was in danger.

I really like how each scene is described and how you can feel the characters emotion coming through each word. I like how you are still learning about the ties they have to the place they are trying to escape.

Part Three: This is where the tears begin and everything gets even more emotional if that’s even possible. I don’t want to include too many details as that would make this spoilery.

I enjoy how you get to see each scene play out as these kids get further in their journey to the U.S. I thought it was good to see the reality of these trips and how dangerous it can get for everyone. There were moments in which I stopped to take everything in and to read real people’s immigration stories as I had not done that in the past.

The only stories I really know are the ones in books or my parent’s stories but even they say that they had it a lot easier. I think its important to listen and learn about the range of immigration stories people have and how coming from different places differs.

Part Four: I think its important that we see this kids never being allowed to grieve. There is no time for them to mourn anything they leave behind and this shows the dangers if they were to give themselves that space. I think it was important to note all of Pulga’s contradicting feelings and the blame he places on himself. I thought it was important to give him the space to mourn his loses in the privacy of his thoughts and how that showed him becoming a different person to those around him, especially Pequena.

I also like how you can feel their pain through each moment in this section of the book. I thought it was important that each minute seemed to drag on just as their days were going on forever.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good book to read. Be prepared for tears though.

You can get this book at Eso Won books or look for it at your local library.

LGBTQ+ Books by Latinx Authors

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera 

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera 

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante 

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova 

I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction. 

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Sonia Saldívar-Hull  (Introduction)

Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry the murky, precarious existence of those living on the frontier between cultures and languages. Writing in a lyrical mixture of Spanish and English that is her unique heritage, she meditates on the condition of Chicanos in Anglo culture, women in Hispanic culture, and lesbians in the straight world. Her essays and poems range over broad territory, moving from the plight of undocumented migrant workers to memories of her grandmother, from Aztec religion to the agony of writing. Anzaldua is a rebellious and willful talent who recognizes that life on the border, “life in the shadows,” is vital territory for both literature and civilization. Venting her anger on all oppressors of people who are culturally or sexually different, the author has produced a powerful document that belongs in all collections with emphasis on Hispanic American or feminist issues.

Books by Latinx Authors about Immigration

There’s a book coming out soon that I will not be reading because I want to listen to #ownvoices reviews on this book and the feelings it causes through my community. As a Latinx person who doesn’t share the immigrant experience I feel it part of my responsibility to listen to those who have that experience, and to read reviews written by them especially if a book is talking about their experience. It is even more of our responsibility to listen to #ownvoices when the book isn’t written by someone who shares that experience. It was because of that I decided to create a post that highlights books by Latinx authors.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border–an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.

A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home.

Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father.

In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an “immigration crisis”: thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained–or lost in the desert along the way.

As the family drives–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure–both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz

Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, and unflinching memoir from a wildly talented debut author. While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery–the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes–will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamá fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero, Michelle Burford

Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.

In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told. Written with Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families likes the author’s and on a system that fails them over and over. 

Which books do you all recommend?