I stumbled onto Grunge Gods and Graveyards like I do most books. It’s YA, it has an interesting cover, and it seemed like something my students would enjoy. I requested it and proceeded to have a life altering experience while reading this little gem! This book will certainly be engaging for teen readers, but the magic really happens if you can remember when flannel shirts and combat books were accessories for your baby doll dress, MTV when it actually played music, and the smell of teen spirit. This was one awesome trip down memory lane for me, but even if you are young enough to be my secret prom baby, you will enjoy this mix of music, romance, supernatural and suspense. And before you ask, I didn’t really have a secret prom baby but I did wear combat boots with my baby doll dresses, which is probably why there was no possibility of a secret prom baby.
Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.
Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.
Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.
At first, I was just wrapped up in the joy of experiencing the setting – the 90’s – flannel and grunge music and Ck One – it was like going home but better because I didn’t have pimples or a curfew or that one boyfriend this time. Frankly, I was a little surprised when I started to realized I was actually pretty interested in these characters. I cared about them and, at one point, I felt so frustrated for the protagonist that I wanted to break things in my house to get the idiots in her house to understand!!! Lainey is said protagonist and she is a pitch perfect teen voice – a little smarter than most adults give her credit for and a little more naive than she thinks she is. She tries so hard to pretend that what others think doesn’t matter, but it is tearing her up inside. The isolation she feels is such a universal teen experience that I think almost every reader will feel a connection with her. She has her faults, but they are what make her so real. Danny is her dead romantic interest and he is going to leave a Jared Leto sized wake in the hearts of readers. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t a single character I didn’t think was pretty perfectly drawn. The plot is paced to really develop these characters, and sometimes it feels like the momentum of the mystery suffers for it. Personally, I was into the character development in this one and I wanted every minute I got, but I think some readers may find that the multiple subplots slow things too much for their tastes. Now, as far as a mystery goes, I really thought I had this one solved 25% in, and I was just so wrong. Nicely played, author, nicely played. The ending made me stupid happy and I went around humming Hole songs while I fixed supper and I think it creeped my husband out like I was plotting something, but I was just really pumped. Overall, I don’t think that you have to understand every single reference to understand this book, so I think it will be a book a lot of teens will enjoy. It does have diverse characters and it focuses on timeless teen issues – facing the future, sibling relationships, dealing with death, feeling like an outsider, best friends drifting away. But if you lived in the age of grunge, prepare yourself for something epic – music, jargon, and pop culture references are everywhere and you won’t believe how happy they will make you. Language, stupid teen behavior, alcohol and drug use, so grades 9+.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Wait! There is more! When you finish this book, you are going to be hungry for more. There is a companion novella, The Lady in Blue, that gives the background on Lana, the urban legend who haunts the woods in the town of Ash. It does for the 1950’s what GG&G does for the 1990’s.
The Lady in Blue stole a car and fled Ash.
Out on Devlin Road she emerged from a crash.
She wandered the woods with her head dripping blood.
Then drowned in the river in water and mud.
All her life criminology student Liz Bloom has heard this rhyme, meant to scare young campers. When she’s about to take on her first cold case, Liz learns the eerie song is about her great aunt Lana. Liz isn’t big on studying, but she does have one advantage most criminologists don’t — she can speak to the dead.
In 1955, Lana Bloom was an eighteen-year-old beauty with Hollywood dreams who fell in love with a stranger. When Lana died in a bloody car crash, all signs pointed to the mysterious man who was never seen again.
As Lana unravels the details surrounding her last week of life, the tale she weaves for Liz is one of desire, betrayal, and murder. But if Lana can’t identify her killer, not only will a murderer escape punishment, but her ghostly form will cease to exist. And Liz will have failed the most important assignment of all – family.
While it doesn’t have the nineties goin’ on like GG&G, it does go a long way in answering some lingering questions readers will have about the lady ghost in the woods. It, too, had a lot of mystery, romance, and dark family secrets that begin to unravel with devistating consequences. This time the love interest is a soldier home from war (my other favorite love interest after musician), and readers will get a fast moving, sweet romance with a rather unexpected twist (sure, I guessed it pretty early, but it was exactly what I wanted). This book definitely evoked the 1950’s for me, both with the careful use of a more formal language style and with its ideas about women’s roles. Sometimes that formality left characters feeling a little stilted, but in the case of Lana’s family, they were a rather cold and uptight anyway, so it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. This is a novella, so it is a pretty fast read, and it was a nice follow up to Lana’s story.