Jessie is acting on a dare when she shows up at the Laurel Hill Cemetery one night. Her instructions are to spend a whole night while wandering the cemetery and collecting rubbings from the gravestones of 10 residents. Desperate to make friends in her new high school, Jessie has agreed to the task despite her misgivings.
Almost immediately she runs into Paul, a boy who seems to be near her age and who says he works as a night caretaker at Laurel Hill. He offers to help her. While collecting rubbings Jessie meets what Paul call “actors” playing the parts of inhabitants of certain graves. Jessie thinks they’re doing a great job until she finds out they’re not actors, they’re really the spirits of the people they claim to be. Most are friendly, but Jenny is not, and Jessie has to escape with Paul’s help.
Undeterred, Jessie is back the next day, and she begins to volunteer at the cemetery during daylight hours on a regular basis. As she helps to revive the Tombstone Tea Laurel Hill held years before, she also works to find a way to reconcile Jenny with her daughter in the hopes that her spirit can move on.
Tombstone Tea by Joanne Dahme has plenty of action to give you the creeps, it does take place in a cemetery and spirits are some of the main characters, but it’s not so spooky that it’s likely to keep you awake at night. Jessie is a strong character, and while sometimes I worried for her, I really liked her growing confidence and her ability to turn a strange situation into a purpose. Mother-daughter book clubs members will be able to talk about spiritualism, beliefs about what happens to you after you die, the history in cemeteries, and courage. I recommend it for groups with girls aged 11 to 14.