Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

This book was a pleasure to read. The opening was especially strong–the author sets the tone and genre straightaway. I loved the sensory details that she picked; this is a book that feels visceral. The action is happening in the moment, without needing to rely on the crutch of a present tense POV.

I will say that the middle started to lag for me as more characters were introduced. It’s pretty apparent that the author intended for this book to be a classic “standalone with series potential.” Rain, Zeke, Jake,  the brownie in the basement–all these characters are interesting, but don’t feel like they necessarily matter to the story. They float through the book, saying witty things and allowing us more details into Wallace’s world-building, but it feels like the real reason they’re present is so that they can be part of book two. More involvement of these characters in the plot would ground them a bit more. Wouldn’t you like to see Zeke and Jake eat their gory dinner at last? Wouldn’t you like to know how Rain’s children actually turn out? It all comes across as seeded details and characters for book two–and according to Wallace’s Goodreads page, book two will unfortunately not be dropping.

Another thing that could use some small tightening up is the use of memory in the book. Don’t get me wrong–I really appreciate the blurriness of the MC’s memories, but I don’t enjoy that we only find out about what really happened to her (being purposely vague to avoid spoilers) at the end of the book. It feels tacked on, since the main action of the book has already concluded. And from a realistic standpoint of how humans interact with memories, the MC would have thought about these difficult memories prior to the point where they’re revealed to the reader. I always want to be as close to the MC as possible, and keeping this information from the reader feels like manipulation by the author.

One last thing. Are normal American names allowed for YA main characters anymore? Breezy is a cool name and all, but I feel like there is some sort of unspoken taboo of using “ordinary” names. Anyone else noticing that?

These little quibbles aside, I really enjoyed Shallow Graves. The description of the author’s other YA book didn’t really snag me, but I’ll be excited to read future books by the author.

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