Friday, May 03, 2013

Review - The Caged Graves

The Caged Graves by Diane K. Salerni. Publishes May 14, 2013 by Clarion books. Appropriate for 7th grade (age 12) and up. 336 pages.

It's 1867 and Verity Boone (what a great name!) is coming home to Catawissa, Pennsylvania after spending most of her childhood back East being raised by relatives following the death of her mother. She is looking forward to reconnecting with her father and getting to know the fiance whose proposal she accepted after a courtship conducted entirely by mail. (Yes teenagers that is a thing that used to happen. It's the 19th century precursor to online dating.)

However when she gets there, all is not as expected. She finds it hard to reconnect to her father and even harder to reconcile the charming man in the letters with the somewhat stiff young farmer she meets. A handsome young doctor tries to claim her attention. Amidst all this relationship drama, she finds that the graves of her mother and aunt are outside the consecrated church yard and encased in iron cages. Trying to sort out rumor, malicious townsfolk, conflicting feelings, and hints of a long lost treasure will make her return more than a little problematic.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended for all libraries. Will appeal to teens who enjoyed last year's The Wicked and the Just or historical fiction/light romance in general.

This is one of those books that I stayed up late to finish. The caged graves aren't about what you think they're about. The rival suitors aren't what you think either though I am happy to say I got that one right. Salerni perfectly manages those hints that could lead you on multiple paths without so littering the ground with red herrings that you get disgusted with the entire effort. It's a beautifully crafted plot.

Post-Civil War life in America is richly portrayed here. The book is sprinkled with lovely little details (such as the lingering resentment of some townspeople over the richer citizens who were able to pay another to go to war in their place) that bring the time to life without drowning you in the author's research.

Sometimes in books, especially those aimed at teen girls, if there is a love triangle (and isn't there always?), the only characters that are fully developed are the triangular three. That is not the case here. There are complexities and surprising depth to many of the secondary characters. And that is what distinguishes this from being a good book into a great book.

I received a free ebook advanced copy of this title for the purposes of review.

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