Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead — just like the prom queen did.
While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.
She should have listened.
Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.
With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.
I’m really enjoying the trend of genuinely frightening YA. As you might have guessed from my Fear Street Retrospective, I spent much of my teen years reading horror that ranged from Stephen King, to R. L. Stine, from the classics like Bram Stoker, to Bentley Small (we all have dark pasts, okay?). I get why teens need the catharsis of reading material that scares the crap out of them. Teens are subject to hormones that increase the size of their emotions (make theirs a double), and a healthy way of working through strong, negative emotions is through literature.
The Grave Winner packs several emotional punches. Leigh’s mother is newly dead; she is dealing with grief that makes her initial state (confused, angry, making weird choices like burying things as gifts for the dead) seem – maybe not normal, but at least sympathetic. I felt for Leigh right away. In a genre that is awash with indecisive girls, Leigh is a refreshing change. Her confusion is rooted in both her mother’s fresh death, and in her own lack of exposure to the supernatural. Her decisions are never shuffled under the rug of – oh, but she’s a teenager, she does stupid stuff. I may not agree with everything Leigh does, but I understand where she is coming from as she does it.
There is a twist in this book.
I will not say anything more about that because it needs to be revealed as the author planned it. It wasn’t enough to make me start the book over from the very beginning (as I’ve done before, and hopefully will do so again), but I did feel some amount of vindicated surprise. I would probably benefit by another read, as you will find the beginning chapters to have a different connotation than they did on the first read.
This is not a standalone. What Gifts She Carried will be re-released on September 29, and the third book has a cover, a title, and the vague release date of Winter 2015:
Lindsey R Loucks has the added credentials of being a librarian — she knows people who like to read, what they like to read, and has probably paid some attention to marketing trends. Not only is she an author of Young Adult, but she has a New Adult title available (Haunted Chemistry) that I need to read ASAP.
If you are looking for a fun, slightly violent read, look no further! Lindsey R Loucks will keep you busy for at least a couple of weeks.
More About the Author:
Lindsey R. Loucks works as a school librarian in rural Kansas. When she’s not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she’s dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she’ll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize.