I listened to the teen/YA novel The Cemetery Boys by Heather (now known as Zac) Brewer in October, and it had the perfect level of creepiness for the season and for my R.I.P. X Challenge. This unique book combines a realistic coming-of-age story with a chilling, possibly supernatural tale woven in.
Stephen is not happy about moving to the tiny, remote town of Spencer, MI, but his father says they have no choice. His dad is out of work and his mom’s hospital bills are mounting back in Colorado, so Stephen’s dad decides their only option is to move in with his mother in the town where he grew up – population 814. As hard as it is to leave behind everything familiar to him and move to this hick town, Stephen finds out that it’s even worse than he thought. His grandmother is not the kind of kind, loving grandma you hear about in books, and there is absolutely nothing to do in Spencer in the middle of the summer.
Then, a boy named Devon invites Stephen to join him and his friends at The Playground, their name for the local cemetery, late at night. The teen boys hang out among the tombstones, drinking. Stephen has not been much into getting drunk in the past, but it feels good to be a part of a group, and he thinks he may have actually found some friends. Meanwhile, he also gets to know Cara, a sensual punk girl to whom he is immediately attracted, though he soon finds out that Cara is Devon’s twin sister, and Devon isn’t too happy about Stephen’s interest.
Throughout the novel, Stephen is dealing with some serious problems – his mother’s illness, his weird grandmother, his father who doesn’t seem to care how miserable Stephen is here, and this boring, backward town. Brewer does an excellent job of characterizing a teen boy’s struggles and angst and showing what it’s like for a teen going through seriously difficult times. Stephen connects with Cara, and they are both able to confide in each other, which helps.
At the same time, Stephen is gradually discovering some very strange things about the town of Spencer. Most of its citizens seem to be believe in a bizarre legend about some terrifying creatures that require periodic sacrifices. In addition, his newfound friends seem harmless at first, but their nights at The Playground begin to take on a more sinister tone.
This is a unique novel, with the realistic story of a struggling teen layered over the ominous, slightly supernatural, and decidedly weird town and its people. I found it to be a perfect combination, with just the right amount of creepiness wound around an engrossing story. I was rooting for Stephen to work through his real-life challenges while also dealing with the threatening mythology of this strange town around him. It’s a gripping story filled with surprises from start to finish.