Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Publish Date: January 26th, 2016
Katherine Tegen Books- Imprint of HarperCollins Publishing
When Breezy wakes up to find herself buried in a shallow grave, she realizes that she can’t remember how she got there. Traveling alone across the country, Breezy searches for answers to how she ended up dead in the first place. But when she ends up at a church in the middle of Nebraska, her life takes a turn she never expected.
I don’t think I’ve ever read such a wonderfully mind boggling novel, from a debut author at that! What seemed to be a straightforward zombie/paranormal YA soon turned into a heady mix of contemporary issues, the meaning of life, and incredible metaphoric events.
In an attempt to write a spoiler-free review, I want to first begin by discussing our protagonist, Breezy. I adore a good female protagonist. As a woman, they are my favorite characters to read! However, Breezy was something different altogether. I would have read about her even if her character was placed in a different story. She’s deeply interesting and has very specific experiences that complete her story and give her depth I have not experienced in a long time. Her passion for astronauts, NASA, and the history of space exploration was so unique and really made sense to who she is after her murder. I cannot begin to put words to the power with which author Kali Wallace used to depict her; it was like I was peering into a real individual. We got to see all of those tiny, odd moments that make someone human; all of the pain, the joy, the curiosity, and the acceptance of one’s identity. All in all, it was incredibly powerful.
Wallace seems to have a specific gift for subtlety. Shallow Graves is a “still waters run deep” kind of novel. The premise is enticing because we have all contemplated death and experiencing death in a conscious state. Yet, Wallace takes us through a story that isn’t altogether about death, but rather about life itself, and more specifically, our humanity and time in our own lives. Shallow Graves seemed to me to be an examination of humanity- what IS humanity? What makes us who we are? Who are we in the context of the universe? Does time matter in the scope of the cosmos? Wallace uses a corpse and a little bit of quantum physics to explore these topics. Breezy, who is essentially a reanimated corpse, is suspended in time, dangling between the constants of danger and opportunity- one of the experiences that physicists have deemed a very human phenomenon. She can neither hold on to her old life nor find a way into a new one. She craves answers, or in other words, security. We crave security at the very core of our being, as does Breezy (who spends majority of book trying to find it via answers to her reanimation). Even as the reader is engaging in thought regarding these cosmically big ideas, Wallace uses this stage to discuss some issues that we encounter in our contemporary day and age like rape culture, feminism, slut shaming, gay conversion “therapy,” and cults. Believe me when I say that Shallow Graves is a completely overwhelming story, in the best of ways.
Check out the podcast review I did with my co-podcaster, Dawn at Bang Bang Book Blog.