Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, By Cat Winters.

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Amulet Books/ABRAMS
On-sale date: April 2nd 2013
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Horror
  Pages: 400

Book Description (From the back of my ARC): 

It's 1918. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, and neighbor accuses neighbor of spying for the enemy. In this stew of fear and confusion, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and "spirit photographers" for comfort. She has never believed in ghosts, but during her bleakest moment 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 to her as a spirit. Why has he returned? And what does he want from Mary Shelley?

Illustrated with haunting early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a time eerily like our own.

I could fill one hundred pages with the word Wonderful and it wouldn't even come close to describing how wonderful this book really is. 

Not only is it the best historical fiction I have EVER read, (and believe me, I've read a lot, at least 50) but the book's heroine, Mary Shelley Black is now my favorite heroine of all time, surpassing even Hermione. Sorry J.K.. 

Not only is Mary Shelley living in a time of war and disease, but she also has to deal with her father being thrown in prison, for nothing more then not conforming his morals to what the government says is right and wrong, the boy she loves dying, and his tortured spirit that haunts her, trying to escape from monsters he thinks are killing him.

Through all this, she never breaks down, never loses hope, and never gives up. 

She is brutally honest, even with herself. When a heroine in a book is trying to solve some horrible mystery, they usually, near the end, break down, say it's too much, and do something to distract themselves, because don't they deserve a break? The one time Mary Shelley finds herself straying off the path of helping Stephan (the boy she loves) find peace, she gives it to herself straight up:

"Why would he pose for a photograph when he's suffering? You're wasting your time trying to satisfy your own curiosity. 

Stop playing. 

Go help him figure out what's wrong."

And she never strays from helping him again. In fact, she throws herself with full body force into helping him.

Another pleasant surprise in the book was that I didn't guess the culprit. I almost always guess whodunit before they are revealed. Only in this book, I kept changing my mind. It's that person right? It has to be them. I know it's them! Oh, but now I don't know. Maybe not. I was guessing until they were revealed, which NEVER happens. I truly didn't know who it was until Mary Shelley said: It was you! 

The photos in the book made it a million times better. They helped bring Mary Shelley's world alive. It felt real, which is good, because it was. 

I also LOVE the fact that Mary Shelley solves the mystery on her own. Of course she gathers helpful information and clues from various people, but she figures it out by herself. Well, she had some help from Stephen in the end there, thanks to his memories. But she had no sleuthing partner, and no mysterious, handsome, new love interest to mend her broken heart and help her put to rest her dead boyfriend so he could make out with her at the end. THANK YOU CAT WINTERS. 

This is a truly astounding, historical, girl empowering, make you think about life, and the kindness and cruelty human beings can deliver punch to the stomach that you won't ever forget. This will be a book that I will keep forever and when I look at it on my shelf I'll think: Wow. There it is. It's real. I read that. I can't believe something that good actually exists. But it is real, I did read it, and there is something that good. And I write this because when you find something really and truly good, you need to share it with the world.





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