Grunge Gods and Graveyards

Grunge Gods and Graveyards - Kimberly G. Giarratano

(I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

The title is a bit misleading, as there are indeed ghosts and graveyards, but don't expect literal gods to appear, and take those (as well their songs, linked to each chapter) for what they are: a tribute of an era gone by, as short as it was intense. I think this is the kind of story whose appeal will definitely vary *a lot* depending on the people: if you were a teenager in the 90s, it will resonate a lot differently than if you were born earlier or later, and didn't approach that period the same way that we did, or didn't live through it at all. (And I say "we" because the characters in this book, should they be alive in our world right now, would be a couple of years younger than I, not more. I will confess to being highly biased, due to my own memories of those years and the bands I used to listen to as well.)

In other words, amidst the teenage angst and drama, lies nostalgia, which fits very well with how Lainey will never get back what she had with Danny—just like the Lady in Blue will never get what other younger women had, stuck in time, doomed to become more and more transparent, then vanish.

There's romance, but not too much, and it doesn't trample the actual plot: good.
There's music and a lot of name-dropping, but I thought it was well-integrated enough, and didn't feel awkward: good.
The small town setting: stifling, difficult to hide anything for long, family secrets... Good.
Strong 90s vibes (no cell phones, bands and brands from that time...): check.
The law-related side of the story: I don't know enough to US law to tell whether that part was true to actual laws or not. It seemed believable, so... good enough for me. Also, corrupt officials aren't so often a theme in YA novels: nice change.

This novel had an intense side to it, sometimes too much, in that what happened to Lainey, the way she was treated, bordered on too unbelievable to be true. It's hard to reconcile the idea of such a mean environment (not only the high school one) to what I knew when I was 17. We had cliques, and people who were more popular than others, but never did things stoop down to such a level. Maybe it does in some places, and I just happened to be in a normal enough high school? Maybe it's the way schools are shown in novels and series, because otherwise it'd just be too boring to read about and watch. There were a few moments when all the angst and drama felt like too much to bear... yet it was precisely also what elicited my reactions, even though they kept going from notsalgic to annoyed, from glad to angry. Had this story left me indifferent, it would've been something else.

There were some stereotypes: the mean queen bee, rebellious teenagers, and Lainey came off as a little dull and too tempted to easily give up at times. However, she didn't do it in the end, learnt to stick to her guns, went on when even the people closest to her seemed to have deserted her... and the clichés weren't as annoying as they are in other stories, because several characters were actually deeper than they appeared at first, and had more to their personal stories than met the eye.

Conclusion: 3.5 to 4 stars. Not exactly the novel I expected, as there were less ghosts and a more complex plot anchored in very real matters. I think that was better, all in all: it avoided veering too much into paranormal romance-only territory, which wouldn't have been as satifying for me.