Colleen Mondor Reviews Grave Things Like Love by Sara Bennett Wealer

Grave Things Like Love, Sara Bennett Wealer (Delacorte 978-0-593-70355-7, $12.99, tp, 332pp) November 2022. Cover by David Seidman.

In Sara Bennett Wealer’s Grave Things Like Love, protagonist Elaine Gillies has the dubious distinction of being ‘‘funeral girl,’’ a teenager whose family has owned the local funeral home, where they also live, for more than a century. Caught between her frazzled and overworked parents, who constantly pile tasks onto her shoulders at the last minute, and her friends, who are frustrated by her repeat cancellations, Elaine is desperate for her life to change. When new kid Xander asks her out she is more than ready for his atten­tion. The fact that he is an acknowledged ghost hunter in hot pursuit of growing his internet audience and very curious about the ghost story attached to the Gillies home is worrisome, but easy to ignore. He quickly convinces Elaine that there might be some­thing to the haunting and its possible ties to her ancestors. Determined to stop being the responsible girl she has always been, she agrees to some late-night explorations with friends, but as she gets sucked into Xander’s drama-filled pursuits, Elaine’s life blows up in ways big and small until the ghost becomes the least of her worries.

Grave Things Like Love is only slightly paranormal – for a long time it is unclear if the ghost in the narrative will even ap­pear – but the impact of a life lived on the paranormal fringes is very much a big part of Elaine. (Her obsession with a convoluted science fiction show, including Halloween cosplay and attendance at a convention, will be warmly recognized by SFF fans.) But while the slight fantasy elements in the narrative are welcome, this is a novel mostly about realistic coming-of-age issues. Wealer goes a long way toward dispelling myths about the mortuary industry, and the attention Elaine’s family pays to their customers is notable for its kindness and respect. But the weight of that family commitment is huge, and fuels Elaine’s desire to distract herself with the truth behind the ghost story, and Xander, who she trusts for far too long.

Wealer uses a deft touch with Elaine and brings her family, and especially her best friend, Miles, very much to life. The support­ing characters all provide critical elements to the narrative, making this novel of a frus­trated teen quite believable. Few people can understand entirely what life would be like for Elaine, (her father’s insistence that she carry on with the family business is certainly uniquely stressful), but we all identify with her desire to be seen and heard for who she truly is. Grave Things Like Love does a very good job of conveying that message, and should make it a solid choice for teen readers.

Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website:

This review and more like it in the February 2023 issue of Locus.

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyWhile you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.

©Locus Magazine. Copyrighted material may not be republished without permission of LSFF.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *