Graphic Novel Review: “Graveyard Shakes” by Laura Terry

Graveyard Shakes tells two intersecting stories – one of sisters Katia and Victoria, who have just started boarding school after years of homeschooling, and one of Little Ghost and Modie, who have a friendship that bridges this world and the next. The tales overlap because Nikola, Modie’s father, needs a child’s life for his dark experiments that keep Modie alive – and Katia seems like the perfect target.

What I enjoyed most about this graphic novel may have been the illustrations, which writer/illustrator Laura Terry imbued with magnetic life. Katia, especially – as the free-willed younger sister who buzzes with energy – practically jumps off of the page. The sense of movement in the drawings complements the story’s action and brings the characters to life.

The other two observations I have about this book are 1.) It is very dark, and 2.) There is a lot going on. Neither is necessarily a bad thing, but they are features you may want to consider before picking up a copy. Personally, I’m not in favor of shielding kids from everything adults might deem “too scary” – usually they’re perfectly capable of deciding that for themselves. The death of a major character, and the creepiness of Nikola’s plot, may make this book unsuitable for younger readers within its target demographic of 8- to 12-year-olds. For others, it may be just the right amount of spooky.

As far as having a lot going on, I think that is what some readers will like best about the book and some the least. Many threads are thrown together in Graveyard Shakes, and as is normal for graphic novels, the reader isn’t given a complete backstory about the events that have led to what’s depicted in the book. For instance, Nikola’s murderous tendencies aren’t well-justified (just where did he learn his necromancy, anyway?). But then again, this is a middle-grade novel, so maybe it’s just as well that they’re not!

All that complexity also keeps the novel moving fast and Terry’s imaginative flourishes should keep young readers entertained. Ultimately, Graveyard Shakes is just spooky enough for a fun October read.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.