Open MIC Night at Westminster Cemetery
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"A newcomer arrives at Westminster Cemetery and shakes things up amongst the Dead. Of the 178 cemetery residents, only 10 arise regularly. One is 17-year-old Sam, who died wearing his Civil War uniform over 150 years ago. Ever the tortured artist, Sam longs to be a writer like Edgar Allan Poe--the cemetery's most famous resident. When Lacy Brink, 16, arrives--the first 'recently Deceased' person since 1913--Sam is immediately smitten. But Sam's straight-laced mother, Mrs. Steele, wants to see vulgar (read: modern) Lacy Suppressed (read: confined to her grave for all eternity). As newly-assigned President of the Entertainment Committee, Lacy dares to host an open mic night among the rule-bound residents. Will she succeed, or will her antics get her Suppressed (and crush poor Sam's heart)? "Originally written for the Deceased," this play in two acts blends prose with stage directions for a hybrid structure. The resulting alchemy capitalizes on the strengths of both media to create a unique, fully-realized world. The secondary characters--some based on real people--read as caricatures against the more realistic and nuanced Lacy. But this duality also equates to good comedy. Given the stuck-in-time atmosphere, though, some residents' dialogue seems mismatched (give or take a few choice phrases) to the antiquated necropolis. All characters are assumed white. Quoth the Raven, 'Encore.'"--Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"Full of heart, honesty, and Poe-etry, with just a dash of the macabre. You'll love the deceased residents of Westminster Cemetery--and not just the famous one."--Gareth Hinds, author-illustrator of the graphic novel POE: Stories and Poems--Other Print
"Amato (Guitar Notes, 2012) is no stranger to playing with form and genre, and this time she blends gothic elements with a lighthearted play. Sixteen-year-old Lacy wakes up in Westminster Cemetery, where she quickly learns that she is among the dead who rise each night and return to their graves by sunrise. When Mrs. Steele, the cold and ruthless guardian of the cemetery, threatens Lacy with the cemetery's most egregious penalty, Supression, Lacy orchestrates an open mic night for everyone--including the Cemetery's most famous resident--to air their grievances. The night's revelations culminate in Lacy and her family getting closure from her death. For a protagonist whose life has just ended, Lacy injects energy and life into the cemetery's residents. This doesn't work as an actual stage production since much of the story comes from long and often didactic stage directions and asides, but it's a unique read that fans of Poe, poetry, or stage plays will find something to grab onto."--Booklist--Journal
"The inhabitants of Westminster Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland, have not seen a fresh(ly deceased) face since 1913. They have, however, lived under a very strict set of rules, enforced by Mrs. Steele, a bitter woman who delights in doling out strikes to those spirits who don't meet her exacting standards of propriety. Three strikes means a spirit loses the privilege of joining the others for nightly tea and conversation. Such is the fate, for instance, of the graveyard's most famous inhabitant, Edgar Allan Poe, who hasn't been heard from since just after he arose from his grave in something of a fury. When a modern girl named Lucy arrives on the scene, a young Civil War soldier, Sam, fears the same fate for her, especially as she immediately earns two strikes for inappropriate behavior and language as she realizes that she is, in fact, dead. Lucy has other plans for her afterlife, which include shaking up her grave companions. The plot arc here is rendered refreshing and clever by Amato's choice of form: the narrative is conveyed as a play, with extensive stage directions for performing the play for either the dead or the living, and witty authorial intrusions that directly address the reader. Moreover, some unexpected pathos and suspense emerge as Lucy's living sister visits the graveyard with intentions that can be read as efforts to join her sister sooner rather than later. Rest assured, however, that there is triumph and redemption for both the living and the dead, and a cameo appearance by Poe himself provides a splash of humor amid a group of souls that are ultimately more melancholy than macabre."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"'Lacy's scream is loud enough to wake the Dead, and that is precisely what is happening.' Sixteen-year-old Lacy Brink wakes, thoroughly confused, in Westminster Cemetery. Turns out, she's dead. She quickly learns that the afterlives of the cemetery's Dead are governed by strict rules, enforced by the unforgiving Mrs. Steele. Rule-breaking in Westminster has consequences--'[t]hree strikes and you become one of the Suppressed, which means you lose your aboveground privileges.' (The cemetery's most famous resident, Edgar Allan Poe, is among the Suppressed.) Horrified Lacy tries to adapt to her afterlife with the help of earnest 17-year-old Civil War soldier Sam. Lacy is assigned to host an evening of entertainment and proposes an open mic night 'to create a space for self-expression.' The residents of Westminster crave a change from the monotony, but are they bold enough to accept Lacy's radical proposal, open up and risk Mrs. Steele Suppressing them all?
"Mary Amato's inventive Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery finds humor in the grave. Formatted as a play, with a helpful narrator occasionally chiming in, Open Mic Night dares readers to laugh at the macabre. Even though the main cast is already dead, the threat of Suppression is serious enough to create notable tension, and the revealed secrets of a few characters are memorable and affecting. Additionally, Lacy's liberal use of profanity (she's particularly fond of yelling 'F*ck!' in the quiet graveyard) allows the reader to feel as jarred by her presence as the Dead do. Open Mic Night reinvents the afterlife in a way that's both mysterious and playful.
"Discover: A teenage girl, surprised to learn she's dead when she wakes up in the same cemetery as Edgar Allan Poe, decides to host an open mic night for the Dead residents."--Shelf Awareness