cover image Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery

Mary Amato. Carolrhoda Lab, $18.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5124-6531-0

This foray into experimental, gothic theatrical storytelling by Amato (Guitar Notes) intriguingly integrates modern sensibilities with archaic authoritarianism. Lacy Brink is a 16-year-old with a penchant for poetry. While on her way to an open mic night, she wakes up dead, having become a ghost resident of the same Baltimore cemetery that houses Edgar Allan Poe. She’s also the most interesting thing to happen to the residents of the graveyard in over a century. As she attempts to come to terms with her life-challenged state, Lacy is slowly introduced not only to those with whom she’s sharing her afterlife, but also to the 10 rules of etiquette for the cemetery’s residents—a code of conduct governing everything from behavior to appearance and occupation (“No screaming, no yelling, no wailing”). Failure to follow the list can get one removed from the community. To prove her worth, Lacy attempts to set up an open mic night—much to the dismay of the leader of the spirits, Mrs. Steele. While the intricate worldbuilding and characterization are richly imagined, the novel’s playbook format distracts with frequent tense shifts and asides; clunky execution further muddies the underlying messages about rectifying past transgressions. Ages 13–18. [em]Agent: Nancy Gallt, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Sept.) [/em]