Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Review: In the Shadows of Blackbirds

Title: In the Shadows of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: Young Adult | Historical Fiction | Ghosts
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source: Purchased
Format: Physical

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 séances 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?
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time (goodreads)

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was a much deeper book than I was expecting.
Plot: Mary Shelley Black believes in science and wants nothing to do with the latest spiritualism craze. In a time of constant fear and uncertainty, Mary Shelley finds comfort in the spirits she didn't originally believe in. 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was an emotional read that explored the emotional consequences of war and death. While the mystery surrounded the return of Stephen and his apparent haunting, I lost myself in Winters' in-depth narrative surrounding War World I and what it did to young boys returning home. The hauntings themselves reminded me of The Dead House, it was chaotic, justly confusing, and unpredictable. From the cover, I assumed that this novel would be heavy on the hauntings, but it actually wasn't. Instead, In the Shadow of Blackbirds focused on the reactions of all of the characters. I would love to read a psychological thriller from Cat Winters because she has a gift for writing chilling scenes. 

Characters: Mary Shelley Black, yes just like the author who wrote Frankenstein, was shipped off to her aunt's home in San Diego to escape her father's scandal. Mary Shelley was spunky and lived to make both of her parents proud. She believed in science and wanted to help others like her mother did as a doctor. Her childhood love, Stephen, was mostly introduced through memories and saved letters,  but I felt that I had an understanding of his character. The one person I would have liked more background on was Stephen's half-brother, Julius. Julius was the local celebrity who was famed with capturing spirits on camera and there was just enough information given about him to make me curious, but not enough to sate that curiosity.

Worldbuilding: Winters research teamed with her engaging writing style made it easy to lose myself in In the Shadows of Blackbirds. She captured the paranoia surrounding the war and the manic fear of influenza so well that I felt that I had an understanding of life in 1918. I really liked that Winters focused mostly on how the war and flu affected the family dynamic. There were plenty of young widows who were questioning their next steps as well as families being torn apart by the war. These accounts made the novel more personal in my opinion. 

Short N Sweet: In the Shadow of Blackbirds brings you into Winters' world with ease and thoughtfully explores our reactions to death. 


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