Book Reviews

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly




Genre: Historical Fiction* YA* Historical Mystery* Romance


“Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.”


This book was a whirlwind of events and I loved every minute of it! So let me set the scene for you: you’re in New York during the late 19th century –and if you’re a male, you have most of the benefits…but if you’re a female, you’re required to look pretty and stay quiet. You’re born in a wealthy family with everything at your fingertips…everything but the only thing you desire: freedom.

That is where we meet our MC, Jo Montfort, in the beginning of the story. Jo has it all, the beauty, the brains, the money, everything but her freedom to become a writer. Then out of nowhere, her beloved father ends up dead and his death was declared an “accident”. But that doesn’t make any sense to Jo so she decides to pursue her father’s death until she discovers the truth. From there, Jo goes from sneaking into someone’s house to digging up a grave to get the answers she so desperately desires.

Guys, this book was fantastic. This is why I love historical fiction so much! I love how the mystery was written because it wasn’t too much of anything. It had the right amount of cleverness, secrecy, romance, and mystery. Donnelly’s writing was really incredible in the sense of how she pieced the different and intricate events of the mystery to actually make sense. I wasn’t confused on who was what and who did what; it just instantly pulled me in and I wanted to know what happened next. Also, the way she described the setting really transported me there. It was so vividly detailed and it captured the style of the era very well.

Feminism was a major theme of this book. As the MC, Jo wanted to break away from society’s constricting rules and live her own life without worrying about being criticized. And given that this book is roughly set in the 1890s, it makes sense. Women were supposed to be delicate little creatures that shouldn’t be doing hard labor or hear vulgar comments or go get themselves an education or marry the person they want or better yet, “have opinions”. Should I say more? You’ve been warned people!

My favorite part of this book was Jo as the main character:

“We who have means and a voice must use them to help those who have neither. Yet how can we help them if we don’t even know about them? And how can we know about them if no one writes about them? Is it so wrong to want to know things?”

She was a headstrong, clever, determined, brave character who I was rooting for the whole time. It was refreshing to see a heroine who wasn’t a damsel in distress in need of a male rescuing her. Especially in this scene:

“Sir, no amount of money, no matter how vast, could induce me to stroll, perambulate, promenade, or engage in any form of locomotion with you whatsoever. Good evening.”

Ahh, and how could I forget the other characters! I love Eddie so much. I don’t even know what to say about him besides how much I loved everything about him. I was always looking forward to the scenes he was in. And I completely adored Jo and Eddie’s relationship! There was an insta-connection, please don’t mistake that for insta-love because that certainly wasn’t the case here. The romance slowly but gradually developed and the result was swoon-worthy. This ship is going down as one my favorite ships ever tbh. Fay and Oscar also added to the story even more because they both brought something to the table; Oscar was the brains and he had a nerdy/quirky personality while Fay was a genuine gal at heart who became Jo’s true friend.

Pertaining to the cover, I feel like it misleads the context of this story a little. Only because the last place you would think this story took place was in New York during the late 19th century. But oh well.

And the ending was the icing on this beautifully done cake. I NEED a squeal though. I MUST find out what happens to Jo, Eddie and the gang!.. And I would totally recommend fosho.

What are your thoughts? Would you give this book a chance?

*Picture and summary from Goodreads.*


6 thoughts on “These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

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