These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

24187925This book has pretty much everything I crave in a good YA mystery: A fearless (albeight sometimes reckless) amatuer sleuth, a simmering star-crossed romance, and mysterious suspects galore! Set in 19th-century New York, this fish-out-of-water story follows the journey of Jo Montifort as she goes undercover to hunt down her father’s murderer. Though he appeared to die by his own hand, her investigative reporter insticts tell her that something is amiss.

When Jo discovers a cryptic note at the crime scene, she has no other choice than to go against the rules of high society and set forth on her investigation—gasp—without a male escort. As she roams the filthy city streets, she soon discovers more atrocities than her father’s untimely demise. Through her naïve eyes, readers get a feel for what life must have been like for the “have nots” of the world back in the dark ages of patriarchial oppression. Could you imagine wearing a suffocating corset on a daily basis? Biting your toungue in fear of sounding too sharp-witted? Or marrying a strange man just to maintian high social status? I may gripe about modern American culture, but I’m feeling rather fortunate to be living in a society that allows me to walk the city streets unescorted in my pajama jeans and Crocs!

At 500+ pages (or 13 hours on audio), the book is a little overwhelming, especially for those youngins, but the story moves fast. I “read” this on audio and it was hard pressing the off button when Jo stumbled across a new clue, or when the romantic tension simmered to a boil between her and the handsome newspaper boy from the wrong side of the tracks. With his help, she travels to the most forbidden places—from brothels to dive bars to shipyards—and has quite a few close encounters with some nefarious street urchins. Along the way, she makes a few friends in low places: A teenage pickpocket, and a budding forensic scientist. Both prove to be quite handy as she pursues her father’s killer.

I’ll stop right here to save you from spoilers, but I will say that this book is worth your while! I’m just bummed that it’s a standalone because I would love to know what adventures lie ahead for Jo as she navigates her life as a cub reporter.

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