In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected Publication: April 2nd, 2013 by Amulet books (ABRAMS)
This review was also posted at Candace's Book Blog.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.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is an incredible novel that fully transported me to San Diego 1918 during the Spanish influenza pandemic. I truly felt the time period and setting, along with the horrors that awaited every corner. The fear that people had of the flu was nearly palpable. I truly felt that horror and fear with them. But Mary Shelley is brave and doesn't let fear rule her. She has been through a lot but she knows that it's not worth hiding out at home living in fear every moment of her life.
I haven't read many books set in this time period. I'm not very familiar with the first world war and didn't know much about the Spanish influenza. While reading I wasn't sure what was real, because it all felt so real to me. Like it was true history and I was watching it unfold. After reading the back and now knowing that the author kept things pretty close to historical facts I feel like I got a bit of a history lesson by being transported back in time and experiencing it first hand. Yeah, this isn't the war, not right there in San Diego, but war is all around them with men being shipped off left and right, and shipped back damaged. Many dead, many more severely injured and others mentally damaged. We get a look at this when Mary Shelley volunteers at a hospital. And while this is just a small bit of the book it was powerful for me to see this and experience it. It truly was horrifying and so sad.
The ghost aspect of the book was absolutely phenomenal. I'm a bit of a chicken, but I do love ghosts in books. Luckily this book wasn't too scary for me, but I did find myself on the edge of my seat a few times. I also grew frustrated because I needed some answers! I was having trouble figuring things out. But that's a positive really. I just desperately wanted to know if any of my guesses were right. And honestly, they weren't really. There was a big twist and while I expected a twist it wasn't that exactly.
This is a darker read, but I never felt terribly depressed while reading it. And while I feel like I could have cried I didn't. I think some of the sad things were pretty expected, I knew that it would have sad moments. But the horrific things that happen absolutely made me beyond furious and that anger was so strong that I actually did get tears in my eyes, because how can any human being treat another human that way?! It's incomprehensible to me.
I absolutely loved the characters in the book and they were very well drawn and easy to imagine. Mary Shelley was a character I most definitely admire for her strength and honesty. Her unfailing ability to see things so much more clearly than so many others who are blinded by grief.
This is a book I recommend to mature young adults who enjoy some history in their horror novels (light on the horror). The rich descriptions that are never flowery, but so bold, transported me completely in time and place and living through Mary Shelley was a true honor. Having lived this short time in 1918 I am ever so grateful for the time period I now live in.
25th- Recreate the cover contest @ The Mod Podge Bookshelf
26th- Interview @ Icey Books
27th- This or That @ Novels News & Notes
28th- Guest Blog @ Jaime Arnold
29th- Interview @Hobbitsies
30th- This or That @ Carina's Books
31st- Interview @ Book Whales
1st- Character Interview with Julius @ Read Write and Read Some More
2nd- Guest Blog @ Mundie Moms
3rd- This or That @ The Book Galaxy
4th- Guest Blog @ Teen Librarian
5th- Interview @ A.L. Davroe
6th- Character Interview with Mary Shelley @ IBTeens