ARC: Whitley: Girl at the Grave

Book Cover
title: Girl at the Grave
author: Teri Bailey Black

pages: 336
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2/5

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother's legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.

How can a book with this many dead bodies in it also be THIS BORING?

It's honestly astounding how little mystery is in this book, considering it's what the bulk of the summary is about. Early on in the story, one person dies and two more go missing. Our main character then proceeds to do nothing for months, to the point of not even telling anyone that her father has apparently abandoned her. Literally. Months. Christmas to spring. She just stays home going 'hm, sad my father left me, it's kind of odd but oh well.' Her friend dies and after a flurry of activity at the crime scene she just...nothing from Christmas to spring. 'Hm, sad my friend died after hinting some mysterious information about my infamous mother and then everyone connected to him/his death just straight-up disappeared. Oh well. I'm going to make gingerbread, that sounds nice.'

DO SOMETHING. She doesn't even try to do something and then lament running into brick walls. She just doesn't try. It's the most bizarre thing, this utter lack of caring that the character displays.

Even when things do get rolling again, it's not because Valentine actually makes an effort or does any searching. She just...exists, until things get told to her. That's the resolution of the mystery. People who have kept secrets for years just casually drop them in conversation at plot-convenient moments, through no effort of the protagonist or even anyone working with her.

The bulk of the story is, instead, taken up with a romantic love triangle. The kind where one party is clearly the loser because Valentine clearly and explicitly does not have romantic feelings for him. Now, on the one hand, I don't mind it as an introspective thing where a teen character is learning about squishy feels for the first time and has to process the difference between platonic affection and romantic affection. That's a fine subject to tackle and done alright here, if you take it as such instead of as a 'who will she end with.' But why couch it in a bullshit nothing-mystery?

And, as fine as that is as a romantic subject, there's just...no stakes to it. The climax of the book tries to have both the romantic plot and the mystery plot rest on Valentine possibly losing the trust/support of boy she loves. Except. It doesn't do that well. At no point in the book did I ever feel like Valentine was going to lose anything, because no one around her would back the fuck off enough for it to actually be a threat. Valentine certainly worried about certain things happening, but I never felt like her worries were justified or had a chance to actually happen, based on the actions of the other characters. It made for a extremely underwhelming end to an already underwhelming book.

So....yeah. There's certainly some promise in here with the writing and the romance, but the things that are good aren't in the right kind of book, and the things I was excited for were missing. Alas.

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