Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves (Strohmeyer)

AUTHOR: Sarah Strohmeyer
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062259608
PAGES: 304
SOURCE: Edelweiss e-galley
GENRE: mystery

SUMMARY: When popular perfectionist Erin Donohue is murdered, Lily Graves, the daughter of the town mortician, and Matt Houser, Erin’s boyfriend, become prime suspects. To clear her good name, Lily and her best friend Sara attempt to find the real murderer.

IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: a bowl of Raisin Bran–sometimes the spoon is full of raisin-y goodness; other times, it’s just a mouthful of soggy flakes.

REVIEW: First off, this book took me three weeks to finish. THREE WEEKS! I kept putting it down in favor of other titles. It put me to sleep more times than I could count. I thought about abandoning it many times. So why couldn’t I just let it go?

Well, I really did want to know who the murderer was! I had my guess right from the beginning, but it didn’t end up being that person (though I think it would have been a cool twist had it been that person). I loved all the crime-scene evidence that Lily collected and tried to figure out. Readers who love solving crimes will find much to love with Lily Graves.

I liked Lily’s family situation, how her mother and two great-aunts help run a small-town funeral home. This is a unique setting that would explain Lily’s “Winona-Ryder-in-Beetlejuice” fashion sense and obsession with graveyards. Lily herself got on my nerves a few times, but for the most part, she is a likeable protagonist who simply wants to clear her name and be with the boy she likes loves.

Not much romance–I would have loved to see more, but the mystery is so interesting, many readers won’t miss it.

I am struggling with whether to get this for my library. I know it would be easy to booktalk and would appeal to my many mystery readers. However, the book has lots and lots and lots of references to marijuana and something called “wet” (not going to say what that is since it’s a major plot point). There’s also suicide, cutting, teen and adult alcoholics, and teen pregnancy. I personally believe the majority of my students can handle all this just fine, but I am also certain I have some parents who might disagree. I would love to hear other middle school librarians’ opinions on this book.

THE BOTTOM LINE: It put me to sleep many times, but the murder mystery will definitely appeal to CSI fans. Middle school librarians are cautioned about drug/alcohol abuse, suicide, and cutting.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don’t have it. Debating.

READALIKES: Paper Valentine (Yovanoff); Pretty Little Liars (Shepard)


  • Overall: 2/5–for putting me to sleep and taking 3 weeks to finish
  • Creativity: 3/5–like the murder mystery
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 2/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5


  • Language: mild-medium–a few sh**, 1 damn,
  • Sexuality: mild; teen pregnancy, (SPOILER HERE, highlight to see)–> statutory rape
  • Violence: mild-medium; suicide, cutting, murder
  • Drugs/Alcohol: high–marijuana, “wet”, teen drinks vodka, alcoholic parent
  • OTHER: lots of descriptions of embalming and prepping the dead for funeral/burial, obsession with death
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