Skip to main content

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Series: N/A
Length: 488 pages
Published by: Random House Delacorte
Publication date: October 27th, 2015
Diversity: none confirmed (see review for more details)

I was pretty much guaranteed to like this book. It had so many things that I love to read about. Gilded Age New York? Check. Aspiring female reporter? Check. Historical insane asylums? Check. A mystery, particularly one that becomes increasingly complex but still manages to tie everything together at the end? Check and check. Even considering only the things I could see from the blurb, this book practically SCREAMS Clara! And I was not disappointed.

Firstly, I have to talk about the setting. The turn of the 20th century is one of my favorite times in American history, especially in New York. Jennifer Donnelly certainly did her research. This book makes New York come alive. I didn't expect so many aspects of the city and of the time to be explored, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even with all that, it never felt to me that the book was covering too much at the cost of its cohesiveness.

I also loved how complex the mystery was. Nothing is as straightforward as it appears to be. But at the same time, I never found myself struggling to keep track of what was going on or who knew what. This mystery also had an interesting mix of being predictable and completely surprising me. I saw most of the big reveals coming, sometimes as much as hundreds of pages in advance. But the way the smaller details came together surprised me, and it was these things that made the mystery truly spectacular.

On a related note, this book had absolutely no filler scenes, despite what its length might suggest. There are plenty of things that seem nice but unnecessary, and then they all come back later in very exciting and clever ways. I don't know whether this counts as vague foreshadowing or just connecting things really well, but I loved it either way.

Despite all this love, I do have a couple of bad things I need to say about this book. Firstly, I am so sick of love triangles, especially when the main character spends so much time dwelling on the situation. I understand how this one was (mostly) necessary, and how it emphasized a larger theme in the novel, but I was bored. Her choice was pretty obvious.

Secondly, for a book set in the heart of the American melting pot, this book had amazingly little confirmed diversity. This book addressed a lot of social issues, most of which had to deal with poverty, which was good (and very necessary, considering the setting). However, in terms of actual diversity, there were a few Yiddish words, which would imply a Jewish character or two...but that was about it. And it wouldn't exactly have been difficult to include a diverse character in a book with this setting.

Overall? This book was great. I didn't quite enjoy every second of it, but by the end, I was so invested in everything that was going on that I didn't put it down for the last hundred pages.

What kinds of books are you guaranteed to like? Any recommendations of books similar to this for me? Tell me in the comments! 


  1. triangles. haha I'm glad most of the book worked for you though. I'm really curious about this one, and the mystery!


    1. I'd definitely check this one out if you're interested in the mystery! And the love triangle didn't detract TOO much from the rest of the book.

  2. I kiiiind of want to read this one but I'm NOT so good at historical fiction. *hides* Have you read The Diviners?! I feel like that one is a really similar story to this? And OMG I'M SO SICK OF TRIANGLES TOO AGH. Like there are good ones out there! But mostly not and I just wish books would quit on them. XD 😂

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. I've read The Diviners! I liked both, but I thought that they were pretty different. They both have large casts of characters in New York, but The Diviners is creepy in a supernatural way and this one is only a little bit creepy in a who-can-you-trust way. And they both have love triangles, which I could DEFINITELY have done without. The good love triangles out there don't really make up for all of the unnecessary ones.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

August Wrap-Up

I'm having a bunch of weird feelings about it being the last day of August right now. I mean, I love autumn, and I'm SO EXCITED that summer is coming to an end because it means cooler temperatures and flannel and pumpkin-flavored things and pretty colors, but at the same time...there's just no way that today's the last day of August. That's not a thing that's happening right now in my head. It's just not. I think I'm stuck near the end of July somewhere.

And with the end of August comes the end of summer break. Within a week, I'll be starting my second year of college! Equal parts exciting and intimidating. The week or so is definitely going to be hectic, what with moving and such, so any posts I manage to get up will be scheduled in advance.

August was a pretty great reading month for me - I was actually hoping to get a bit more in, considering it's my last month of 2017 without classes, but I think I still did rather well. And in terms of star …

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

So, I haven't posted since the beginning of the month, because finals totally destroyed me. But I'm here now! And for the gazillionth time in four months, I'm saying that I'm gonna get back onto a normal posting schedule. But for now, I have plenty of things to post this week since it's one of my favorite times of year - wrapping things up at the very end!

Yes, it's nearly the end of 2017. And personally, I will not be sorry about kissing this year goodbye. I've had a pretty good reading year, and not a bad personal year! But 2017 as a global phenomenon has not been great, and I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment. It's made me really want to focus on the good this year, especially in the form of books! So without further ado, here are my top ten books I read this year.

10. LADY MIDNIGHT by Cassandra Clare (The Dark Artifices #1): Based on all the other Cassandra Clare books I've read, I was in no way expecting this to make it onto my favo…

Ten Books I Want My Cousins to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme: Ten Books You Want Your Children/Godchildren/Young Relatives/Etc. To Read.

Hi, everyone! *waves* Long time, no post. School kind of...ate me. But I'm back, at least for today. I don't know what I'm going to do about a consistent schedule, and I don't know whether I'm going to really start back now, but here I am. And what better place to start than a Top Ten Tuesday?

When I saw this week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt, my mind immediately went to my cousins, specifically the ones that are closest to my age. I have a feeling that the books I picked are more YA than a lot of other people's lists, because my cousins aren't all that little anymore! I'm the oldest of that group, and I love them dearly even though I don't get to see them a lot. There are so many books out there that I think they'd enjoy or that I think would be valuable for them to read (or both), so …