Rated Reads

These Shallow Graves

by Jennifer Donnelly

Rated: Moderate

Jo Montfort comes from one of New York’s finest families. Wealth is an important factor, but breeding is key. It’s expected she will marry a young man in her social circle who is a fine match. The problem is that she doesn’t feel more than friendship for him, and on top of that, she wishes she could do more with her life than just be a fine lady adorning sitting rooms and producing children. She’d love to be a reporter like Nellie Bly.

When her father dies, supposedly from an accident while cleaning his gun, Jo is devastated. But she suspects that isn’t the true story. As she learns it was no accident, she can’t shake the need to know what really happened — and why. She ends up teaming up with a handsome reporter at the newspaper her family owns to track down the truth. It’s hard enough to ferret out details when she is barely allowed to leave the house, but then serious danger threatens her time and again. Not only could she be physically hurt, but Jo is in danger of losing all her nice life promises. Then again, does she really want any of that?

These Shallow Graves is set in 1890, and it emphasizes time and time again how little control women had over their lives, how huge a gap there was between the very rich and the very poor, and how dirty secrets often won’t stay buried. I enjoyed the mystery fairly well but was most taken with our heroine, who wants her life to be meaningful, who wants more. The love story was engaging as well.

Rated: Moderate. It’s almost a mild, but the references to unsavory things are just a bit much for a mild rating, at least for young readers. There’s some mild and moderate language scattered throughout, and there are instances of violence. There are pickpockets and prostitutes and madams and a Fagin-like character who do what they must to get by or get ahead.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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shallow graves
  • These Shallow Graves
  • by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: