Book Review of The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

Posted May 17, 2013 by Kara in Uncategorized / 12 Comments

Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: May 14th 2013
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult-Historical
Source: I received a galley from the publisher via NetGalley.


Description from Goodreads17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

I’ll confess. I probably should have reviewed this right after I finished reading it. Because honestly, I remember very little of what I read. And that’s probably because it’s not a very memorable book. There are a lot of things you THINK this book will be before you begin reading it, but it actually lives up to very few of those expectations. I appreciate that some of this book is rooted in fact (like there really are caged graves in Catawissa), but the main problem is that this book is pretty boring. I think that maybe readers that read historical fiction more than me may enjoy this one, but for me, this is a period in history that doesn’t really interest me. I was going into it expecting the creep factor and a paranormal plot line and it is neither of those. I suppose you could call that a spoiler but I really think it’s an important fact that readers should know before picking this one up. It’s much more historical than paranormal, and if you are reading it for that, I do think you will be genuinely disappointed.

I also had problems with Verity. She was a fairly unlikable character and I had a hard time rooting or caring for her. She was a snob. Bratty and entitled, she constantly judged those around her and the fact that they weren’t from a city and they didn’t have all the experiences she had. Of course characters go through growth,  and so does Verity, and I liked her more by the end of the book, but she is simply not a character I would have cared for in real life and so why should I care for her in a book?

Also? A love triangle. I feel that it’s a decently written triangle and I did care for both love interests, and I was conflicted over who Verity should choose, and that tugged at my heart strings a little, so for me that was a positive. I’m not usually a fan of love triangles. But if they are done well, I can deal, and in this case I did because I felt both characters were developed well and the triangle felt realistic and the interactions between the characters worked for me. So I wouldn’t immediately write it off because of that element but I did feel it was something that should be stated. There is a largely romantic element to this book though and I almost feel as if the plot took a backseat. It was at least 50/50. So if you love the romance in your YA novels, I am sure you will enjoy this more than I did. Personally, I can do without romance completely. I don’t MIND romance, but I certainly don’t need it to enjoy a book.

Good things? The prose is lovely. A lot of the side characters were developed well, particularly Verity’s father and the housekeeper. The mystery is fun to solve and go along with but it’s hard to focus on that when we are being constantly interrupted by a sappy romance. The plot is slow moving and I never felt fully invested in what I was reading until around page 180, and that is FAR too long. I liked the book enough to call it average but I was not won over in the end. Bottom line here: interesting premise with only an average execution. I wan’t impressed and so I move on to the next.

3/5 Dragons

12 responses to “Book Review of The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

  1. I like the point you raise about people who read lots of hist fic will like this more BECAUSE YOU ARE RIGHT. I loved this book right off the bat and I read a TON of historical fiction. I think I was on a historical fiction bender as I was reading this one, so yeah. Good point. Ah well, a book can’t be a total winner for everyone and at least you liked the prose.

    • I liked it enough, yeah. And I am so glad it worked for you. I could tell it was one of those books where it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me. AND my expectations got in the way again.

  2. Amy

    Boring, unlikeable character, and love triangle? Probably not for me. Also I don’t read a whole lot of historical and if I do it needs to be a more adventurous or scandalous book for me to enjoy it. Great review chick. Sorry you didn’t like this one more, but at least the prose was great.

  3. I LOVE historical fiction… But I’m SOOOOOOO picky about it… And honestly, like you said – I’ve already made ASSUMPTIONS about this book… And seriously, a love triangle hadn’t even CROSSED my mind. I am intrigued though…

  4. It took me forever to become invested in the story too. And I completely agree with you about how once the story actually started getting interesting they kept switching back to the romance focused side of things and it completely ruined most of my enjoyment. I was definitely expecting more paranormal and if I had known it didn’t have any of that I think I would’ve skipped this one in the long run. Great review, Kara!

  5. Oooh, decently written love triangle? Interesting. Okay, so I think I’m going to try this one, but I do wish you had loved it more. Oh well. Can’t love everything. *crosses fingers for self*

  6. I actually really enjoyed this one, but I can see where it didn’t impress you. I am a big historical fiction fan, which as you said probably helped. I also actually enjoyed the way the love triangle was presented because to me it wasn’t like the typical love triangle. I found it was more about Verity herself and her growth as a person (especially a young adult) than the love interests in and of themselves. But like I said, I do see what didn’t necessarily work and it makes sense to me. The book as a whole was much more character and relationship driven than exciting plot which can definitely turn people off. At least you did enjoy something about it though!

    • I like historical fiction but I am like very picky about my settings and the time periods. Some just bore me. I should have known this would be one of them. I would agree with you about Verity except I pretty much couldn’t stand her. And you’re right. I think I was expecting a plot-driven book and that’s not what I got. It was decent though. I didn’t hate it. Just meh.

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