October 17, 2018

Kali Wallace: "Shallow Graves"

Title: Shallow Graves [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kali Wallace [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Strong, complex lead. Engrossing undead coming-of-age story, unpredictable and full of compassion. Unapologetically feminist. Blissfully devoid of romance.
Cons: The darkness is not tempered by humour or comedy, so it might not be everyone's cup of tea.
WARNING! Gore, tension and some disturbing images.
Will appeal to: Horror/supernatural fans who like well-rounded, morally grey characters.

Blurb: Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how. Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious - and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs - where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous. (Goodreads)

Review: SORT-OF DISCLAIMER: I have a strong bias toward books where the main character is dead or undead. Then again, I've read a few that fared under the 3-star mark for me, so you can probably trust my judgement 😉.


Shallow Graves is one of those books that creep on you. The story in itself, though interesting and punctuated by intense moments, is not its strongest suit - the main lead and the overall concept are. In an interview, the author mentioned the TV show Supernatural as a source of inspiration, but not in the same vein as Anna Dressed in Blood was clearly ripped off from influenced by it. Basically, she asked herself: "But what if all those monsters getting hunted don’t want to be monsters?" and in response wrote a book from the monster(s)' perspective, also exploring (via the main character) the forever-shifting boundaries between the once-human and the monster itself. Mind you - among this particular cast of characters, Breezy is the only one who used to be human. But compared with the "normal" people who chase them and claim to "help" them using violence and abuse, all while having their own secret agenda, even monsters have redeeming qualities. [...]


Breezy is a mixed-race, bisexual 17 y.o. girl who has been dreaming of becoming an astronaut since she was little. Not in your average, oh-wouldn't-it-be-cool-to-fly-in-space way. Not in the way most children claim they will do this or that when they grow up. She's serious about it, and she's got a plan - until her untimely death puts a spoke in her wheels. Now, that's where this book becomes awesome. Breezy could have been turned into a stereotype in so many ways, or made into a forced vessel for a number of things. Instead, her commentaries about race issues or sexual preferences are more like asides, that - nevertheless - hit the mark with much more force than a straight-in-your-face representation would. And when she muses about her shattered dream and what her life could have been like - or when she finally remembers how she died - her stream-of-consciousness delivers a powerful feminist message that never sounds like Wallace is using her character as a manifesto. Also, even after her quest to understand what she's become (and how she got to be this way) gives her some tentative answers, Breezy is her own woman. She fights the monster rhetoric with all her might, and refuses to believe she's doomed to become a killer just because she has the power to be one. She still has a choice, and even in a world of people who - unlike her - are born monsters, she's not the only one.


I like how this book manages to weave together not one, but three mysteries (how Breezy died, what she is now, why she is what she is), plus themes like family, deranged faith and...not quite friendship...let's say, more like mutual understanding/helping among monsters. Plus questions about life, death, morality and who the REAL monsters are. Of course, there's a number of antagonists too, and the biggest one comes as a surprise, because they're not who you would expect at first. If you like action, the showdown with this entity is pretty much the only kind you get, but this doesn't mean Shallow Graves is a nice and cozy half-horror - it's as tense, gritty and gruesome as they come. And if you don't mind open endings and not getting all your answers handed to you in a neat package, this book is just perfect. Please help elevate it from its underrated status. It's worth the effort fro so many reasons.

For quotes from this book click here.
For more Afterlife books click here.


Note: this post is part of the Back to Black - Beating the Halloween Backlist series, an all-month event taking place every Tuesday of October 2018, featuring:
Thirteen Tales to Give You Night Terrors (Adult, Horror, Supernatural, Afterlife) by Troy H. Gardner et al. (Oct. 10th);
Shallow Graves (YA, Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror) by Kali Wallace (Oct. 17th);
Spellbound (YA, Supernatural, Thriller, Contemporary) by Christopher Pike (Oct. 24th);
Requiem for the Devil (Adult, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy) by Jeri Smith-Ready (Oct. 31st).


  1. Oh! This sounds very cool!

    What will be of no surprise to you - I've been downloading a few horror books to read after Halloween lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  2. You know that I am not good when it comes to horror, but I think I could enjoy this one! I do agree that it hasn't been talked about that much in the book blogging community, which is surprising considering that the main character is so diverse.

    I am okay with open endings as long as they are not cliffhangers. In fact, when it comes to anti-heroes like Breezy sounds like, I enjoy it when the final judgement of their character is left for the reader. Sometimes having everything spelled out for you ruins the fun of figuring out your own opinion or ending!

    Great review as always, Roberta!

    Tessa @ Crazy for YA

    1. Quote: "it hasn't been talked about that much in the book blogging community, which is surprising considering that the main character is so diverse."
      Exactly! Which is why I rest my case: it's up to the publisher to create the right amount of buzz in the beginning - then word of mouth will do the rest. Of course, this one is neither contemporary nor straight-up fantasy, which are the genres everyone seems to be into nowadays...

      This one has got an open ending in the sense that "(un)life goes on" and we don't have a clue what Breezy will do next with hers. But it's pretty much self-contained.

      Thank you hon - and I hope you'll overcome your fears and read this one!

  3. Bless you for this review - I've been already excited about this already to an extent and you've recommended this more than once too, but this part of your review: ""But what if all those monsters getting hunted don’t want to be monsters?" and in response wrote a book from the monster(s) perspective, also exploring (via the main character) the forever-shifting boundaries between the once-human and the monster itself." has totally solidified my desire to read this. Fantastic review as always - will be adding this to my tbr if it's not there yet. :)

    1. Poor TBR list LOL. But really, since you love horror, I think this one has big potential in your case - plus it's diverse AND feminist!

  4. This sounds so awesome!! Great review!

    1. Thanks! I see from your blog that you're a fan of horror among other things, so this one should be up your alley!


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