Within the last three months we have had two new additions to the Jr/Sr high collection that have very similar titles. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, and Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace. I am planning on recording a book talk to post for my students, and I thought that might make a fun series of book talks, because there are a lot of books with either identical or very similar titles.
Both of these novels have an element of mystery to them, but they are rather different in some elements.
Shallow Graves, by Kali Wallace, starts with Breezy waking up in a shallow grave, with a man standing over her. She pulls, and suddenly he is dead, and she is walking around. She realizes she can see who is a killer or not, and that she can kill anyone who is themselves, a killer. As she travels around the country looking for some answers, she encounters others, and gets some answers. This is a supernatural thriller, there are plenty of scary moments, and times I was not sure about the outcome. I think this would be a good pick for students that like books that are scary, and that involve creatures from various traditions. There is not a lot of background given about those creatures, so they may want other books after that explain some of the creatures in more detail. That said, there is also quite a bit of humor in the story as well. For instance, she once introduces herself in the following way, “Hi. I’m Beezy. I’m the reanimated corpse your brother found in Wyoming”(Wallace 189). In some regards the humor around supernatural issues reminded me of Gil’s All Fright Diner, which is one of my favorite books.
These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly, also follow a young woman on a quest. In this case, Jo Montfort is trying to figure out what really happened to her father. His death was ruled accidental, but it is clear something else happened. It is 1890s New York City, however, and her family belongs to the privileged elite, which means that she cannot easily investigate without risking her reputation. This is a great story, with plenty of action, but also the sense of how stifling Jo’s place in society truly is. There are some great action scenes in this story as well, as her situation becomes more and more perilous.
Both novels feature scary sequences. Also, the protagonists have some similarities, as Jo longs to be a reporter like Nellie Bly, and Breezy has always dreamed of becoming a Mars astronaut. These goals and dreams strongly shape both of these characters, as well as societal expectations that they must fight against.