"Every year, when the last leaf of summer falls, roses are laid at the grave of Lainey Grace. No one knows who steals into the cemetery after the gates are closed and locked, least of all the head groundskeeper, Bob. When Bob is warned he’ll be fired if the rose-givers sneak in again, his ten-year-old granddaughter, Briar Ann Wade, decides to find out who the perpetrators are and why they only come each fall. Briar discovers the answer to the mystery only to learn, as her grandpa says, grief and love take many forms…and there is healing in both."
As a reader, I'm pretty tolerant. Yes, I have a master's degree in English, but instead of driving me towards books with high literary tone, earning my degree made me aware of the many ways an author can express his or her voice. Voice is unique. It can be brought out in its best form with training, with editing, with practice, but overall, each voice represents a person's story and THAT is what intrigues me, not how perfectly they write or use all the right tropes or blow up all the stereotypes.
So when I call a story beautiful, know that I mean it. The Grave of Lainey Grace is absolutely beautiful. Aaron Galvin has brought the essence of being a child and caught between the whimsy of childhood and the sometimes cold reality of adulthood to life with a deft hand. He's drawn his simple characters with quick, accurate lines and rich detail, but best of all, he's captured the rural dialect in a readable manner. The entire time I was reading the book, I thought fondly of my own down-to-earth grandfather and missed him more than I have in the last decade since his passing. And Briar Ann's reactions to the adults around her, with their confusing emotions and disbelieving reactions to things that seem so perfectly clear to her, are spot on. Best of all, all the authority figures in Briar's life--her grandfather and her parents--are presented as people, flawed but worth loving all the same. None of them are sidelined, which happens too often in YA stories.
Being caught up in a story of this caliber, I felt the grief and the love that intertwined the characters and brought the narrative to life. That doesn't always happen to me and I enjoyed the experience. Galvin is a writer to watch--I'm definitely going to hunt down his other books and settle myself in for a good read.
Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.