Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Gravebooks (Nightbooks #2)

White, J.A. Gravebooks (Nightbooks #2)
August 16th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

**Spoilers if you haven't read Nightbooks.**

In Nightbooks (which is brilliantly recapped in the first chapter), Alex and Yasmin escaped from the evil witch Natacha who was forcing Alex to write stories for her. Both children are dealing with their trauma in different ways, and Yasmin finds it difficult to talk to Alex and also sleep at night, so the two don't see each other much. However, when Alex is visited by Natacha in a dream, and she tells him that he must write a story for her every night or she will visit him, he needs to seek out his former co-captive to figure things out. Natacha is dead, but visiting him in the dream, and needs Alex's stories to grow flowers. Why does she need the flowers? Alex tries to write stories, but is struggling with a lot of blockage. In his dreams, there is a greaveyard filled with the "graves" of his half-finished stories. He does successfully write some of them; the ones that are good enough burst into flames and provide Natacha with flowers. Alex and Yasmin try to figure out how to defeat her, but soon are dealing instead with Simeon, who had been masquerading as Natacha's familiar, but is really a nachpyr, a type of vampire who feeds on energy instead of humans. The flowers caused by the stories provide him with power. Yasmin seeks out the help of a witch to whom Natacha delivered oils, and finds Ms. Goffel in a hard-to-find barber shop, where she is imprisoned and sentenced to cut the hair of the dead. At first, she refuses to help Yasmin, but as the girl visits, brings her coffee and crullers, and adds some color to her otherwise drab existence, Ms. Goffel offers to help. Will Alex and Yasmin be able to collect totems and weave a spell that will do away with Simeon? And will Alex overcome his writers block so that he doesn't have to give into Simeon's offer of becoming a nachpyr so he will have all the time in the world to write?
Strengths: Alex and Yasmin are a good team, even though they haven't been talking to each other. They support each other in whatever way they can, and are very patient with each other, which is nice to see. Alex writes a number of stories, including one about a haunted bicyle, a carnival, and a carnivorous locker, which are rather good and spooky, in the vein of Lubar's Weenies stories. My favorite part was when Yasmin interacted with Ms. Goffel, and when Simeon was pursuing the children a bit more aggressively. Lots of creepy, scary things, and Alex's dreamscape was evocative of Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. 
Weaknesses: I'm not a huge fan of scary books, and have read a lot lately that are the story-within-a-story format. Language arts teachers will ADORE the commentary on the writing process, but I sort of wanted Alex to quit worrying about writing and just write. 
What I really think: Nightbooks has been really popular with my students, some of whom have even seen the television dramatization. I'll definitely be purchasing, since I've had to glue Nightbooks back together because of overuse!

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