THE GRAVE ARTIST by Paula Lynn Johnson

Grave ArtistA fun more-or-less paranormal YA about a teenage girl who does spirit drawing.  And about a 16 year old girl who lived in the 1700s and was murdered.

Sixteen-year-old Clare finds herself drawing skulls with wings– specifically deathheads, the kind of carvings you see on tombstones.   She calls them Sammies, for some reason.

Claire is the fallout of a father who has recently abandoned the family in favor of a Bambi model, his former paralegal in his law firm, and Clare and her older sister and her mom are all struggling valiantly to carry on, having moved to a new, somewhat lower economic strata town, meaning a first-time ever job for mom and a new school for Clare.

She is a talented artist, and in art class meets Neil, and they become friends and co-investigators of the strange phenomenon of her ‘spirit’ drawings.

They visit one of the town’s old cemeteries trying to find a deathshead, and find the exact one she has been drawing on the tombstone of a teenage girl named….gasp!…. Samantha.   They talk with a volunteer at the Historical Society and learn quite a bit about Samantha and her family,  which turns out to be one of the founding families of the town.  It also seems that she was murdered, found with her head bashed in and under water at the local river.  With Neil’s urging, they go again and try some automatic or spirit writing, and this produces the request to find her Dearest and bring him to her.

Clare talks to the only living ancestor of the dead teenager, who gives her an old family locket that no one has been able to open.  Claire uses an art knife to spring it open, to see it contains a painting of an eye.  An art teacher explains they are Lover’s Eyes, which the teacher explains are rare.   She said almost all are English, since the tradition began with Prince George IV, who fell in love with a prohibited woman –a commoner and a Catholic, so he had a painting of his eye put in a locket so she would have a momentum to carry around with her and no one would know who it was.

Clare is haunted by nightmares and more symbolism and is determined to solve the mystery of who murdered Samantha before she goes completely crazy.

A centuries old mystery having to do with family issues of the time,  overlaid with the family issues of today, and the nexus for all of this are the two teens.

A YA, because it is featuring teens, but a fun story and very readable.  I think the thing that would take this out of the YA category would be a little less teenage angst and a lot more detail and expanded story.   An enjoyable easy read.  I like enjoyable and easy.






2 comments on “THE GRAVE ARTIST by Paula Lynn Johnson

  1. Deb Atwood says:

    Now this sounds like fun! And, of course, with the ghost/cemetery setting, it’s perfect for me. Funny, though, I didn’t think you liked YA particularly.

  2. Marti says:

    I don’t search YA, but sometimes grab something that is free but sounds like a good story and realize after I start reading it that it is YA. I think the YA I dislike are the ones where the teen wakes up with supernatural powers, or is the only one who can save the world/save the fantasy world or is being hunted by some demon on other. Those more formulaic tropes.

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