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Thursday, April 4, 2013

REVIEW: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to seances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Winters has PACKED this novel with so much. There's the first World War going on, the flu epidemic of 1918, and the Spiritualism craze that's taking over a hurting country. 

Oh..and then there's a love story and a mystery surrounding the death of the main character's love.

Just one of those things would've made this an amazing read. Winters has done an amazing job of building a story world that is as incredibly real as can be. I was instantly--instantly!--caught up in the story and setting and was so sad to reach the end. The care given to minor details (a description of a parrot that just, by chance, happens to be in the house, for example) is tremendous. You cannot read this novel without being completely settled neatly (if not comfortably) in 1918.(see my note below.)

The story itself is haunting and creepy. It is not your typical YA ghost story in which everything seems to flow into a neat line. Rather, Mary Shelley Black's ghostly visitor is haunted, in a much more dramatic sense than Mary Shelley is. He shouldn't have died when he did, nor how he did--let alone in the manner that his family claims.

If I did stars or other symbols, this would be an easy 5 stars. Cat Winters has crafted a fabulous debut novel--and I really can't wait for more from her.

NOTE: This isn't a "pretty" story, nor is it "nice and tidy." Winters doesn't gloss over the atrocities of war injuries when her character is volunteering in the soldiers' hospital. Neither does she hide the images of the flu epidemic--with bodies stacked in wagons, and wooden coffins. It's honest, which may suggest that you think strongly about younger readers before handing it over.

What do you think??

Shop Indie BookstoresDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Amulet Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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