Saturday, March 9, 2024

Today's read... The Loss of the Burying Ground by J. Anderson Coats

Ready for a high-sea adventure? I haven't picked up one of these in quite awhile, and was especially excited to learn that it's about a forming friendship between two girls. At first, I thought it was about sisters (twins), but after reading the blurb more carefully, I realize it's not. I think this one will be more about coming together and finding common ground. But let's find out!

by J. Anderson Coats
Candlewick Press
Young Adult Fantasy
288 pages


In this twisting, page-turning read, shipwrecked teen girls from opposing sides of a long war must find common ground in order to survive.

When the Burying Ground goes down in neutral waters, it sends the delegations from two warring nations—and the peace treaty they were about to sign—to the bottom of the ocean. The only survivors are a pair of teen girls: Cora, daughter of a Duran newspaper man, and Vivienne, lady’s maid to an Ariminthian princess. Neither has known a time when war between their two countries did not rage, but now they must learn to trust each other if they are to find sustenance, avoid dangerous pirates, and have any hope of rescue from the remote island they washed up on. However, in the midst of a conflict steeped in fierce national identity, propaganda, disinformation, and radicalization, finding a common path forward seems nearly impossible, for both Cora and Vivienne and their respective countries. But when the teens’ politically charged rescue seems likely to extend the war, Cora and Vivienne realize they do have a shared purpose: peace. If only it isn’t too late.


The embedded thorns of prejudice and hate come face-to-face with the need to find acceptance in order to survive.

The Burying Ground is the meeting point of delegations from two nations, which have warred for years and are hoping to find peace. Before the treaty is signed, the ship meets disaster and ends up on the bottom of the ocean with all but two passengers dead. Cora, the daughter of a newspaper man from one side of the war, and Vivienne, maid to the princess on the other side, are the sole survivors. At first, they are unaware that the other has made it to the island alive, but when they finally do meet, their hate runs deep. The island and the dangers around them threaten to kill them both, but if they hope to survive, they must find a way to get along...especially when their own peace might later change the path of their nations as well.

The book is broken down into four sections, each opening up to the next stage of the plot. The reader first meets Cora and Vivienne just as they realize they've washed up on shore, not knowing the other exists or has survived. By staying in first person and switching between each point of view, the thoughts, fears, and hopes of both individuals become clear. This allows the girls to gain sympathy separately before they meet and clash. All the while, a third and unknown character has their own perspective and tale thrown in here and there, which adds a touch of mystery while also giving more depth to the world beyond the island and a taste of the stakes surrounding the war. 

The first fifty pages (or so) allow each character to develop individually. While this sets the foundation for the driving message, it also holds a slightly lower pace. First, at around page 80 or so, the pacing picks up and steadily increases after that as the two characters face one unexpected challenge after the next. By the end, the tension is palpable, and it's hard to see how everything will work out. I was also surprised a little by the pretty modern day language usage despite the setting, but then, remembered this isn't historical but fantasy. This lends the story familiar aspects with a slightly unique style.

Both characters are easy to root for, and this makes the message come across with potency. It's not hard to notice how society and history has molded their opposing thoughts, and how a little open mindedness can clear away the storm. The darker side, however, isn't totally forgotten as strings of intrigue, greed, and more also come into play. The extra twist of the world outside is well done and adds needed tension as well as unexpected twists. Fans of enemies turning to friends against dangerous odds while facing danger around them will enjoy this one.

And here she is...

J. Anderson Coats has received two Junior Library Guild selections, two Washington State Book Awards, and earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, the Horn Book Review, and Shelf Awareness. Her newest books are A Season Most Unfair, a middle grade historical set in medieval England about a girl with something to prove; and The Night Ride, a middle grade action-adventure about horses in danger and kids who want to save them – if they can. She is also the author of Spindle and Dagger, The Green Children of Woolpit, R is for Rebel, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, and The Wicked and the Just. A YA novel, The Loss of the Burying Ground, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in 2025.                  Bio taken from Goodreads...and I believe the date at the end is a typo, since this book is scheduled for this year, 2024.

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