Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden – Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders

Cover for Cemetery Girl: The PretendersShe calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill—names taken from the grim surroundings where she awoke, bruised and bloody, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.

She has made the cemetery her home, living in a crypt and avoiding human contact. But Calexa can’t hide from the dead—and because she can see spirits, they can’t hide from her.

Then one night, Calexa spies a group of teenagers vandalizing a grave—and watches in horror as they commit murder. As the victim’s spirit rises from her body, it flows into Calexa, overwhelming her mind with visions and memories not her own.

Now Calexa must make a decision: continue to hide to protect herself—or come forward to bring justice to the sad spirit who has reached out to her for help…

Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders is a book of firsts: it’s the first book in a new series for Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, it’s the first graphic novel Jo Fletcher Books has ever published, and it’s my first-ever graphic novel. It’s been decades since I last read comics and even then it was more of the Asterix, Tintin, and Donald Duck variety instead of DC or Marvel. So I was interested to see how I would enjoy reading one now that I’m an adult. It was definitely and fun and successful experiment.  

Cemetery Girl has a cool story centred on its protagonist, the titular Cemetery Girl, Calexa. We meet Calexa when she’s left for dead at Dunhill Cemetery and we follow her making a life for herself there. Calexa doesn’t remember anything before her life at the cemetery, a mystery that seems to lie at the core of the series. During the course of the book she does regain bits and pieces here and there and this is where the plot for this first instalment comes in. In the course of her involvement with the teens running amok in the cemetery some memories are shaken loose and these form a hook for the next book.

In addition to Calexa there are two or three other prominent characters and of course the teenage vandals. Calexa finds people who care for her in the person of the cemetery caretaker, Mr Kelner and in the old lady living opposite the cemetery, Lucinda Cameron. While they get limited screen time, we do get a good sense of who they are. We get a lot of background information in relatively few panels for both Kelner and the old lady. Some of it not even stated explicitly, but there in the background.

The art, drawn by Don Kramer and coloured by Daniele Rudoni, fits the story really well and has lots of detailing. The colours and the tonal palette used are muted and often blue/greenish in overtone, helped by the fact that a lot of the story is set at night. This lent the visual aspect of the story a dark and chilling mood, contrasted with the far warmer and brighter tones used for scenes where Calexa feels safe and cared for or when we visit someone’s memories. It almost felt like a form of visual pacing, where the brighter and safer panels allowed the reader to breathe before the next action scene.

As stated above, reading Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders was a quite enjoyable experiment. This is a lovely story, not just suitable for adults but a YA audience too. While the plot for this story is resolved, the main story arc very much isn’t and we’re left with plenty of questions. It a fast read, I read it in about an hour, but satisfying nonetheless. I look forward to seeing – literally in this case – what happens to Calexa next and what she discovers about her history.

This graphic novel was provided for review by the publisher.