The Secrets of Lily Graves
by Sarah Strohmeyer
Expected Publishing Date: May 13, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View at the Traffic light:
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.
The Secrets of Lily Graves is quite a departure from Strohmeyer’s previous YA books, both of which were quite light reads(though still some of my favorites). I wasn’t sure how Strohmeyer’s writing would translate into a real mystery, considering one of her greatest talents is sarcastic humor, which was absent here, but it did really work! While I had been anticipating The Secrets of Lily Graves, I was also quite nervous for this reason. I’m glad to discover my worry had no grounds and this book pleasantly surprised me–as much as I can use the word “pleasantly” to describe a murder mystery book.
And make no mistake, The Secrets of Lily Graves is indeed a murder mystery–full of possible suspects, filled with characters that all had motive, and of course, some danger to the main character herself, Lily Graves. It’s not just enough that Lily’s last name may remind one of the cemetery, but her family owns a funeral home, and they’re all in the business of dead people. As creepy as this could have been, Lily embraced it and therefor so did I. Reading about the day-to-day stuff in the funeral home was strange for me, because my first job was doing filing in a funeral home, and it’s a unique setting that’s not often explored. While I, however, was banned from the ebalming area(not that I would have wanted to see it anyway), Lily embraces that aspect of the business. In fact, in a way she enjoys it.
Lily may be a strange main character. It’s likely she may rub some readers the wrong way. There’s no doubt that she’s strange, but there was something very compelling about her from the start. I was intrigued as she attempted to unravel the murder mystery. I also really liked how Lily was actually capable of making certain conclusions–it wasn’t far-fetched at all for her to know certain things about the way bodies behave but she grew up around them. It felt logical for the story to have Lily be good at certain things most teenagers wouldn’t have a clue about, and I appreciated the level of care given to the minor details in The Secrets of Lily Graves.
The actual mystery in The Secrets of Lily Graves was incredibly well done. There were so many possible suspects and unlike so many books, I really thought any of them could have done it for a variety of reasons. I did actually guess the “who did it?” question in the end, but instead of being disappointed, I felt SUPER proud of myself because it was a really tough mystery and unless you pay really close attention it will just pass you by before all making sense at the end. There was definitely a sense of danger in this book, one that made me catch my breath a few times while being afraid for Lily’s sake, especially at the end. The mystery in The Secrets of Lily Graves certainly pulled no punches.
The last thing of note is that I really appreciated one of the questions that is raised in The Secrets of Lily Graves. Erin is upheld as a model high school student. Straight A’s, president of the abstinence club, plenty of extracurricular activities and internships, etc. People around Lily kept saying that Erin made such good choices and didn’t deserve to die like that. Lily, quite rightly, often stands up to this–that even if Erin made bad choices(which she certainly made some), she didn’t deserve to die like that either way. There are some common murder mystery tropes that often paint the victims in unflattering lights, so I really loved that small but important theme that ran throughout The Secrets of Lily Graves.
It’s a bit nerve-wracking when an author you’ve loved decides to jump into a new genre. Can they pull it off? Will it disappoint you? I was happy to say that I was overall pleased with The Secrets of Lily Graves. As someone who doesn’t normally enjoy mysteries and finds them predictable, I thought this one was much better than the few other YA mysteries that I’ve read. I really was intrigued by Lily herself and the setting of a family funeral home. It was cool(yet creepy) that Lily helped so much in funeral prep and that we really got to see that process while still having the central mystery. I definitely would recommend this one to murder mystery fans. 4/5 cupcakes.