The Grave Keepers

320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062484758.
Gr 8 Up—The Windhams are cemetery owners in the Catskills in a world where, at age 13, certain individuals have grave-opening ceremonies where they receive keys to their future graves. The recipients are expected to maintain the sites until they are sealed inside upon death. Laurel and Athena Windham lead very different lives. Because Lucy—the Windham's firstborn daughter—died while being struck by a car, Laurel, who was born after her death, is homeschooled and confined to their property. Meanwhile, Athena attends school, goes to the library, assists with grave-opening ceremonies and errands. While their lives are different, both have one thing in common: they desperately want a friend. As the story unfolds, Laurel befriends Charlie, a runaway, and—after being mistreated by some popular girls—Athena eventually finds a friend in Maude. Yet, someone else on the property is seeking an eternal friend. A ghost that poses as Lucy intends to take Laurel to be her friend by ending her life. Interwoven with alternating chapters about Laurel and Athena are observations from the mysterious ghost. The ghost's story centers on the 10 tenets of grave keeping, which are highlighted at the start of the book. Laurel and Athena are quite likable and some readers will find them to be relatable. While Byrne's writing is compelling, the plot's slow pacing might lose some readers.
VERDICT An additional purchase for those needing light ghost stories or coming-of-age tales.

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