I’m excited to be part of the Blog Tour for Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas that is being hosted by Xpresso Tours. Be sure to check out the excerpt to this great YA Fantasy!
-ABOUT THE BOOK –
Genre: YA Fantasy/LGBT+
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Published: October 13th 2020
Order Cemetery Boys Today
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.
Maritza pulled a bundle of cloth from her own backpack and held it out for him to take.
“It took me weeks to make,” she said as Yadriel untied the twine. “Burned myself like eight times and nearly cut off my finger, but I think my dad has pretty much given up trying to keep me out of the forge.” Her shrug was casual, but she stood tall, a proud grin pulling the corners of her lips. Yadriel knew this was a big deal for her.
Maritza’s family had been forging weapons for the men for decades, a trade her father had brought over from Haiti. She had a keen interest in learning how to craft blades from him. Since blood wasn’t used with the blades until a boy’s quinces ceremony, it was a way for her to still be a part of the community without compromising her ethics. Her mom didn’t think it was a proper career choice for a girl, but when Maritza set her mind on something, it was impossible to dissuade her.
“Nothing gaudy and ridiculous like Diego’s,” she said with a roll of her eyes, referring to Yadriel’s older brother.
Yadriel pulled back the last of the cloth to reveal a dagger nestled inside. “Wow,” he breathed.
“It’s practical,” Maritza explained, hovering over his shoulder.
“It’s badass,” Yadriel corrected, a wide smile pressing into his cheeks. Maritza beamed.
The dagger was the length of his forearm with a straight blade and a cross guard that curved like a sideways S. Lady Death had been deli- cately painted onto the polished wooden grip. Yadriel held the dagger in his hand, solid and reassuring. He traced his thumb along the thin lines of gold paint that radiated from Lady Death, feeling every intricate brushstroke.
This was his dagger. His portaje.
Yadriel had everything he needed. Now all that was left was to finish the ritual.
He was ready for this. He was determined to present himself to Lady Death, whether or not anyone else approved. But still, he hesitated. Clutching his portaje as he stared up at Lady Death, he sucked on his bottom lip. Doubt crept its way under his skin.
Yadriel jumped as Maritza placed a steady hand on his shoulder.
Her brown eyes were intense as she studied his face.
“It’s just—” Yadriel cleared his throat, his eyes sweeping around the room.
Maritza’s eyebrows tipped with concern.
A brujx’s quinces was the most important day in their life. Yadriel’s dad, brother, and abuela should’ve been standing next to him. As he knelt on the hard stone floor, the emptiness pressed around him. In the silence, he could hear the static of the uneasy candle flames. Under the hollowed eyes of Lady Death, Yadriel felt small and alone.
“What if—what if it doesn’t work?” he asked. Even at nearly a whis- per, his voice echoed through the empty church. His heart clenched. “What if she rejects me?”
“Escúchame.” Maritza gave his shoulders a tight squeeze. “You’ve got this, okay?”
Yadriel nodded, wetting his dry lips.
“You know who you are, I know who you are, and our Lady does, too.” She said with fierce conviction. “So screw the rest of them!” Maritza grinned at him. “Remember why we’re doing this.”
Yadriel steeled himself and spoke with as much courage as he could muster. “So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
“Well, yeah, but other than that.” “Spite?” Yadriel guessed.
“Spite!” Maritza agreed enthusiastically. “They’re gonna feel real stupid once you show them. And I want you to savor that moment, Yads! Really”—she took in a deep breath through her nose and clasped her hands to her chest—“savor that taste of sweet, sweet vindication!”
A laugh jumped in Yadriel’s throat.
Maritza smiled. “Let’s do this, brujo.”
Yadriel could feel the goofy grin back on his face.
“Just don’t screw it up and make the diosa shoot you down with lightning or something, okay?” she said, backing up a few steps. “I can’t carry the responsibility of the family black sheep on my own.”
Being transgender and gay had earned Yadriel the title of Head Black Sheep among the brujx. Though, in truth, being gay had actually been much easier for them to accept, but only because they saw Yadriel’s liking boys as still being heterosexual.
But Maritza had certainly earned the title in her own right as the only vegan brujx in their community. One year younger than Yadriel, she’d gone through her own quinces when she turned fifteen earlier that year, but she refused to heal because it required the use of animal blood. One of Yadriel’s earliest memories of Maritza was of her crying inconsolably when her mother had used blood from a pig to heal a child’s broken leg. Early on, Maritza decided she wanted no part of healing if it meant harming another living creature.
In the dim light of the church, Yadriel could see her portaje hanging around her neck—a rosary of pink quartz that ended in a silver cross, but the concealed vessel remained empty. Maritza explained that, even though she refused to use her powers, she still respected the diosa and their ancestors.
Yadriel admired her for her convictions, but he was also frustrated by them. All he wanted was to be accepted—he wanted to be given his own portaje, treated like any other brujo, and given the same responsibilities. Maritza, on the other hand, had been offered every right of the brujx, but she chose to reject it.
“Now, prisa!” Maritza said, waving him on impatiently. Yadriel took a deep, steadying breath.
He tightened his grip on his Hydro Flask, the metal cool against his sweaty palms, as he exhaled through pursed lips.
With a more steadied resolve, Yadriel unscrewed the cap and poured the chicken blood into the bowl.
-ABOUT THE AUTHOR-
Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. 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, Harry Potter 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.