ultimately fell flat

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What started out with a prologue to rival most young adult prologues (in which the reader was thrown headfirst into a vibrant creation story, full of diversity and promise), quickly got overwhelmed by the sheer size of the main cast.

I loved CEMETERY BOYS, Aiden Thomas' debut, and was looking forward to this one, which is their third published work, especially when I saw the diversity of the cast on their Instagram. It's rare that trans and nonbinary characters get to simply exist on page and to see a cast fully made up of queer and genderqueer characters was a dream come true. And it did deliever on that page.

However, the size of the cast deeply disrupted my reading experience. The characters read largely the same and spoke with the same 2020-2022 inspired lingo that will be outdated in five years. I understand the attempt made here - writing teenage characters in a 2022-adjacent fantasy world requires them to speak like 2022-adjacent teenagers. However, and this could just be a pet-peeve, it made them feel juvenille. Like I was scrolling through Twitter replies instead of reading a book. Similarly, I didn't find any of them to be particularly fleshed out, which could also be because of the large cast. They all felt one-note, as if Thomas was also having trouble balancing them all on page.

The informality of their speech also caused a weird cognitive dissonance. In that, there were potentially dangerous things happening that I couldn't grasp the stakes of based on how the characters were conducting themselves and speaking about those occurances.

I wanted so deeply to get invested in Teo and Aurelio, but at the end of the day, I just didn't care, which is disappointing considering how invested I was in Yadriel and Julien (the mlm pair in Cemetery Boys).

Overall, I think this book fell flat for me because of the Cemetery Boys effect. Because Cemetery Boys was so amazing, this one couldn't be simply because everything about it felt like it was taking a step back (from the writing to the dialogue, to my inability to connect to the plot or the characters). However, I gave it a solid three stars and am planning on reading the sequel. The ending, at least, brought me back and I'm not ready to give up on the series just yet.