Four Rubbings is volume 1 in the Stone Witch Series, written by Jennifer Hotes. It was graciously given to me in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Amazon:
Halloween. The night the barrier between the dead and the living is as thin as muslin. Fourteen-year old Josie, haunted by the death of her mother, leads her best friends to an ancient cemetery to rub graves. Convinced she will come away with proof of her mother’s spirit at last, the evening takes an unexpected turn as the teens gravitate four ways into the haunted grounds. Set against the backdrop of the rainy Pacific Northwest, four graves will be rubbed, touching off a series of events that will rattle their once mundane lives. From the lonely World War II hero to an accused witch, the people buried beneath the stones have stories that need an ending. The journey to unravel the mysteries leaves the friends wondering if the graves would’ve been better off left alone.
With so many YA books out there with a focus on the paranormal, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a story that is original and engaging, but this book is both. When I first began reading, I thought the characters were a bit young for the roles they were given, but as I continued reading and learned more about their history together and the family issues they each had to cope with, I found myself fully engrossed in their lives and in the mysteries they were pursuing.
I really liked the premise of rubbing graves and actually went out of my way to learn more about this interesting activity that really does exist. The grave rubbings begin as an innocent activity on Halloween and a way for Josie, one of the main characters, to find a new bond with her deceased mother. What it ends up to be is quite different. Each of the kids, Josie, Blaze, Seth, and Casey look further into the stories of the graves they chose and the chapters change point of view according to which story is the current focus. Normally, I would find this constant change of perspective annoying but in this case, I was so interested in all of their discoveries that I didn't mind it at all.
The bond of the four main characters was admirable. Being friends from birth and now 14, the story was as much about the characters coming of age as it was a paranormal mystery. I think this added to the engagement level of the book as they supported each other through their troubles but also begin to see each other in a different light as the story developed.
My favorite aspect of the story however, was the story of the accused witch's grave and the connection between her story and the story of Josie's mother. I've always enjoy witch stories and the history of witches and witchcraft in the world so this story was the most interesting and fun for me.
This book is great for middle school readers and really for anyone over the age of 12. I thought it was unique and fun to read and I liked how I didn't really know how it would end. I'm really looking forward to the second book to see where the author takes these characters on their next adventure.