The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy
by Martin Matthews
The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy is a wonderful story that will draw you right in. The main character is unique and refreshing. The narrator has a great sense of wry humor that makes it a pleasure to read. You will literally laugh out loud at times.
The story is set in Centralia, which in and of itself is an interesting setting. It opens up some good talking points about history and the whole Centralia story. The real Centralia has been almost a ghost town for years, which may be the appeal of setting a story there. The town had to be evacuated after the Centralia Mine Fire began around 1962. The fire has burned underground ever since, popping up in different coal seams and even in another nearby town, which forced another closure. But, the whole Centralia story is not the main focus of this book. In fact, the Centralia of this book is fully populated, has a large high school, a vibrant town, and a huge cemetery. The cemetery is the central setting, but there are other locations as well. In this story, the characters encounter old mine tunnels and things leftover from the heyday of mining in the area.
The main character is Drake Stevenson, a boy who has albinism. This condition comes with a host of issues, including extreme sensitivity to sunlight, poor vision, etc. Thus, he has to dress fully covered up from the sun and wear sunglasses to protect his eyes from bright light at all times, even indoors. The sun can easily burn his skin, so he has to cover himself with sunscreen as well as long-sleeved pants, shirts, and coat. Indoor lighting is even too bright for his eyes, so his teachers have a hard time understanding and allowing him these accommodations. I have never read a novel with a person who has albinism as a character, so it was interesting to learn. I had no idea that these other things would be issues, but it makes total sense. The difficulties Drake encounters with school staff are all because they do not understand the rare condition he has. But, the story really isn’t about albinism. Drake’s family owns the cemetery and he takes a night job there because he is still in high school and has to be in class during the day. At school, he meets a girl, who happens to be the principal’s daughter. She becomes his first real friend. Then, after work one night, he meets another girl, this one in the cemetery.
The girl in the cemetery is a ghost. Drake calls himself a ghost at one point, due to the albinism. So, in a way, his new friend has similar issues to his. That may be why he can see her and others cannot. Even his sister, who is a psycho (really), can’t see her.
As the story unfolds, Drake learns that a tragedy struck the town the previous summer. While battling bullies at school, his crazy sister at home, and his new boss at work, he tries to figure out what exactly happened and why no one will talk about it. It makes for a really tense plot where the reader wants to learn more too, and you just can’t put down the book. It’s that good.
I enjoyed the sense of humor and the believability of Drake’s character. He’s got real-world problems and faces a lot of issues that other young adults can relate to. The novel tackles such issues as bullying, disability, discrimination, teen drinking, mental illness, divorce, death, and more. But, it does not become overbearing or preachy either. The story moves along at a good pace and you are not left feeling that it drags anywhere. The motives of the people involved are totally believable and realistic. Guilt and redemption are central to the resolution of this one. The plot twist at the end is fantastic and will leave you breathless. At times, you will laugh out loud, cheer for joy, feel deep sadness, feel hope, feel fear, and most of all, come away with an understanding of what it means to walk in the shoes of another person.
Very well-written and the plot is awesome. I am calling this the best novel I have read so far this year. It’s that good. Not to be missed. You will not regret taking the time to read this one.
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