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Cemetery Songs

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Worth reading 😎

Polly can hear the thoughts of the dead, a rare but powerful gift that will bring her to the edge of danger on a journey of self-discovery.

“We receive the final song of the dead."


Cemetery Songs is a quick, enjoyable read that packs an emotional punch that I did not anticipate.


The premise is fairly easy to follow: a teenage girl must come to terms with her grief (and solve a cold case in the process) in order to find peace with who she is. And the actual "mystery" at the heart of this storyline isn't a mind-bender. I was able to patch the cold case together long before the final resolution, which took some of the satisfaction out of it.


I also yearned for a more in-depth look at these "death singers". I love the paranormal. I love the "other". But this storyline is less about the supernatural and more about a journey of self-discovery. Which, as I began to fall in love with the characters, became less of a problem and more of an unexpected bonus (remember that emotional punch I mentioned?).


As for our protagonist, Apollonia (Polly) is an engaging character. I felt myself commiserating with her. I wanted her to overcome her grief. I wanted her to climb that mountain, so to speak.


“It’s still my bluff. I’m not going to let a bunch of asshole white guys from the 1920s ruin it for me.”


I mean, come on. What's not to like?


The rest of the cast is fairly two-dimensional. There's Darcy, the "all lives matter" queen bee. Chase, the ex-boyfriend. Henrietta, the ex-bestfriend. These characters are fairly stagnant. But they do play a role in our protagonist's journey - their quirks, shortcomings, and backstory are integral to Polly's development, especially down the line.


And then, of course, there's Billy Meyer. Enter love interest, stage right.


I'll admit. I thought I had Billy and Polly figured out. Their rocky relationship started out as a blackmail scheme that quickly transformed into something more. And I do mean quickly. Something about the shift in their relationship felt abrupt. But honestly, I've read dozens of insta-love tropes in my day, and this (thankfully) was not that. So I jumped on board with minimal complaint.


And let me be the first to say it: I loved these two together. Billy has a no-nonsense way about him that's extremely endearing. Which is exactly why the conclusion of this book left me yearning for more. I wasn't unsatisfied, per se. But it also left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.


“I lie awake for a long time, thinking about everything I want and all the things I can’t have.”


Polly really did say it best. Sigh.


I won't go into too much detail about the mystery of Harrison Card, our resident ghost that Polly encounters on a trip to the cemetery with Billy (per his not-so-brilliant blackmail scheme). Let's just say that the reveal behind his untimely death was predictable. Predictable, and depressing, and absolutely heart-wrenching. Which more than makes up for the predictability.


All in all, this was a worthwhile read. Easy to pick up. And yes, easy to put down. But the emotional edge to these characters and their journey makes it worthwhile to pick back up again.


“That’s the cool part about dying. You get to go find the answers”

Reviewed by

I'm a cat mom with a passion for amazing stories. Character-driven tales of friendship and heartbreak? High fantasy adventures with heart-pounding stakes? I love them all. And more importantly - I know how to spot a hidden gem!

About the author

Julie Gilbert is the author of Cemetery Songs, a young adult novel about adoption, identity and the ghosts of the past. She has written several books for Stone Arch Books, including the Dark Waters series and several Girls Survive titles. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications. view profile

Published on December 15, 2020

80000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Young Adult

Reviewed by