I try to read Young Adult novels occasionally during the school year so that I know which ones to recommend to my students, and I now know that I can recommend Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones to those who want a spooky tale that isn’t too scary. Gravediggers focuses on three middle school students who head out to Homeroom Earth camp in Montana for a week of science immersion. Ian (a stubborn jock who strives to be popular), PJ (a scrawny film-buff), and Kendra (a socially awkward computer geek) are forced into the same camp group and reluctantly head out to pick wildflowers. Though Ian and PJ are friends, they rarely associate at school because Ian is afraid of being taunted, and Kendra’s only association with Ian was a time when he teased her in class for being nerdy.
After only a few minutes on the trail, they get bored, and when Ian spots a large buck in the woods by the trail, they begin chasing it trying to examine it. After coming to a clearing and watching the buck bound off, the three realize that they are lost. Kendra’s compass isn’t working, and the three have no idea where they are going, but after hiking for ages, they think that they have finally found a safe haven in an abandoned old cabin. Soon they find that the cabin isn’t so abandoned after all – there is a skeleton in the basement and zombies hunting them down from the woods. What ensues is a two day race to outrun the zombies (and all of the other unnatural threats that haunt the forest).
The book has great heart-pounding suspense, but the ages of the heroes seems a bit out of sync with the intended reader (while I think that some of my freshmen would enjoy the story, I don’t know that they would be interested in reading about middle school protagonists). Also, the action is great up until the last few chapters of the book when it appears that author Christopher Krovatin rushed an ending in hopes of possibly following it up with a sequel. Overall, this is a good read for middle schoolers or early high schoolers, especially for readers who are fans of Darrin Shan novels.