I had been on the fence about These Shallow Graves for a while because it looked interesting, but it’s gotten fairly mixed reviews. Fortunately, I decided to pick it up anyway because I have been obsessed with dark historical YA lately (and it was $3 on Book Outlet). This book really surprised me, and it was exactly what I was in the mood to read.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.
Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.
The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.
The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.
These Shallow Graves was not exactly what I was expecting (I’m not entirely sure I payed all that much attention to the synopsis going in), but I’m so glad it wasn’t. I really enjoyed the story. I thought the twists were done particularly well – I didn’t figure out who the murderer was until nearly the end of the book, and that’s pretty unusual for me – and I was definitely drawn in to the story fairly quickly. I actually read this as a buddy read for a readtahon, and I had such a hard time pacing myself, because it was hard to put down, and when I did manage it, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen next. I was really impressed with the story, and think that it felt relatively mature for a young adult novel.
I especially enjoyed the journalism twist. It was fun seeing that element of turn of the century New York, and I thought it gave the story a bit more movement plot wise, without feeling forced. And I liked that the main character is an aspiring journalist, because it took a story that could have so easily ventured into damsel-in-distress territory and, instead, put a feminist twist on it. I also liked that this book explored the grittier side of New York. There were some very strong Oliver Twist vibes, which was kind of cool (and that’s coming from someone who didn’t particularly enjoy Oliver Twist).
For the most part, I enjoyed the characters. A few of the secondary characters fell a bit flat, but they didn’t drag down the story too much. The main characters were great, though. I liked seeing the contrast between rich and poor, especially since both of the main characters have dark, albeit very different, backgrounds. The love story was definitely predictable and a bit cheesy, but I honestly still liked it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I definitely have a soft spot for historical romances that span social classes.
I also want to mention how much I liked the ending of this book. It’s not too predictable or happy. And it doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow. It’s messy and realistic and, while I will admit it was a bit unsatisfying while I was actually reading it, it was so refreshing to see in a young adult novel.
★★★★☆ – I enjoyed These Shallow Graves much more than I was expecting, and I am so happy I picked it up. It was a fun, historical mystery that I think a lot of people might enjoy. If you like dark, historical young adult – think A Madness So Discreet or Mad Miss Mimic – I think you’ll like this one.
And if you’re interested in reading These Shallow Graves, you can pick up a copy on Amazon now (the paperback is less than $5!). You might also still be able to find it on Book Outlet.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose These Shallow Graves as one of your two free books.
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