The Secrets of Lily Graves
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of Pages: 304
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Sarah Strohmeyer is a fairly prolific writer. She has written a dozen books for adults including some chick-lit books, like Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, as well a popular mystery series featuring a hairdresser named Bubbles. Lately, she has been turning out YA novels including Smart Girls Get What They Want, which I haven't read, and How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, which I have. I was excited to get my hands on an early copy of Lily Graves as I adore the YA mystery genre, but didn't set my expectations too high after not loving the too saccharine How Zoe from last summer. While not the perfect novel, I ended up enjoying this mystery quite a bit, and was happy to discover that the writing is much darker in this than any of the other books I've read by this author, adult and YA alike.
The Secrets of Lily Graves follows, um, Lily Graves, a high school teen that has a penchant for wearing all black and who lives in the funeral parlor run by her mother and aunt. The novel opens up with Lily being attacked in the ceremony by the so-called "perfect" girl, Erin, who is convinced that the reason her boyfriend, Matt, broke up with her is because of Lily. Erin might not be wrong, either. What started as a friendship between tutor and student (Lily has been tutoring Matt all summer in US history) has been slowly evolving into something more. Lily definitely has feelings for Matt--and she is hoping he feels the same. Lily receives brutal scratches on her arm from Erin, but manages to escape the attack. Only hours later Erin is discovered dead in her bathtub by what is obviously murder meant to look like a suicide, with Lily and Matt quickly labeled as the prime suspects.
I really liked certain aspects of this book. It might be a cliche to have the daughter of a mortician to be a goth girl (if that is even a thing anymore--or if wearing all black puts someone in that category), but it wasn't one that bothered me. She calls the popular clique the "Tragically Normals" which made me chuckle and wears a preppy outfit as her costume for Halloween which is also mildly funny. I liked Lily and the fact that she was who she was. She wasn't trying to be popular--even if she was interested in a popular boy. She was perfectly happy to hang out with her best friend. I also loved some of the little details, like the mention of the shows on ID (Wives With Knives, Nightmare Next Door, etc). ID is my go-to channel when there is nothing on TV. I know it is weird, but I just love seeing how crimes are solved and the motives behind them--so I loved this.
The setting of the book is also very interesting. I loved that Lily and her family lived in the funeral parlor, and was intrigued by some of the details about embalming and the like. Again, this book was much darker than the other books I've read by the author, and she does give us some pretty gruesome details about both Erin's death and how bodies are prepared before they are buried. If you are super squeamish, this might not be the one for you (and I do mean super squeamish it's really not that bad).
I also really liked Lily. She wants to clear her name--and Matt's--of course, but I think she really wants to know what happened to Erin. The novel relies a little bit too much on the whole "cops are idiots" cliche with the cops not being able to solve a crime (they are small town cops, what do you expect? *eye roll*), but it's what you have to expect in YA mysteries. The cops can't solve crimes, but teenaged girls can. Whatever. It is what it is.
Finally, I'm not going to say I was completely surprised by the baddie. I had figured out the who--although not TOO early, but I was surprised by the why. I tend to figure out mysteries fairly early on, so whenever a book can surprise me, I have to give it props.
Overall, I was surprised by Lily Graves. This book isn't going to change any lives, and it certainly isn't perfect--again, it is littered with cliches, but none of them really bothered me. If you are looking for a quick mystery, I would definitely recommend. If you are picking this up because you loved the extra-fluffy book How Zoe from last summer, though, I would still recommend, but know this is completely different.
*I received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review.*