Book Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer (plus, information about another upcoming title that takes place in a graveyard)
With the intrigue of Pretty Little Liars and plenty of romance, bestselling author Sarah Strohmeyer weaves a story of secrets and lies—set in a funeral parlor.
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily’s and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.
I really enjoyed so much about this book, up until the end. I’m not sure that the ending works entirely well, but I thoroughly enjoyed parts of the journey to get there – with one huge quibble. Read on if you want to know more about that quibble.
When a classmate is found dead at home, Lily becomes a prime suspect. Which really complicates things because her mother is dating the chief of police. Soon, she is on a quest to clear her name, which is easier for her than most because she has grown up living in a mortuary. She knows a few things about death and dying. Of course, this is also what makes her a prime suspect. That and the fact that she may have been having a thing with the dead girl’s boyfriend.
Lily and her best friend set out to solve the mystery, with the help of Matt, who, to complicate matters, may also be a suspect.
There’s lots of really interesting stuff happening here. Lily is a very cool character. She’s smart, resourceful, and fiercely embraces her outsider status. And the look into mortuary science and life among the dead is very interesting – as is her relationship with some of the family members working in the mortuary home. There is sometimes an odd mix of dark and light tones, especially as we delve further into the mystery and throw in some additional plots that include drug trafficking and religion (not necessarily together). For me, the who done it seemed to kind of come out of nowhere and was a twist that didn’t seem to make sense in light of some of the previous stuff. Some other reviews said they figured it out very early in the book, which is interesting.
And in all honesty, it really bothered me that Lily continues to be very involved with Matt at the beginning even as he seems like such a prime suspect; Matt hadn’t really earned her trust I felt she kept giving him. Why is she so fiercely loyal to this boy who might be guilty of murder?
Like all mysteries where teens are the ones out trying to solve the crime, you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. There were things I liked about this one and things that are definitely an issue. For me, it’s an optional purchase. The professional reviews were mixed and somewhat lukewarm as well. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Published May 13, 2014 by Balzer&Bray. ISBN: 9780062259608.
Interestingly, there is another upcoming release that features a female character that lives and works in the business of death . . .
Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.
Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:
Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.
At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).
Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?
Karen’s Thoughts: I have started reading this title and so far I am very interested in it.
Releases August 26, 2014 from Random House. ISBN: 9780449818725
And if you are intersted in books involving graveyards, don’t forget to check out these titles that feature graveyards in some way.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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