Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: April 2, 2013
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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary from Goodreads: 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.
First Thoughts: From the creepy cover to the fantastic last words, this book had me glancing over my shoulder for ghosts in the dark. This paranormal, historically accurate story will have goosebumps crawling up your arms and leave your spine-tingling long after turning the last page!
Creepy, creepy, creepy! I am admittedly a giant baby, still scared of the dark and my own shadow (seriously, I have escape routes from every room in my house, just in case...). So, you can imagine that a book based on ghosts and spirits is not something that would immediately strike my fancy. But, one look at this eery cover and how could I not open up the pages and see what’s inside?
The inside, it turns out, just about matches the creepiness of the cover. First of all, what a great voice the main character, Mary Shelley Black, possesses. A strong confident sixteen-year-old; she’s not afraid to be who she is even in the face of events that would leave most mature adults incapacitated. Actually, all of the characters are well-developed. From the lonely, high-strung aunt to the unstable, injured soldiers in the Red Cross house - Cat Winters uses her characters to tell a tale filled with tense moments. Now, those of you wimpy readers like me, don’t fear. Although this story features spirits and the paranormal, it is just the right amount. It’s not too scary, but it will definitely make you think twice before turning off the lights at night (I am actually getting a little nervous about going to bed tonight).
One of the aspects I found most intriguing in this novel was the setting. Instead of placing a paranormal storyline in a fictional setting, which would have been easier, Winters built her story around a tragic, death-filled time period. Honestly, I have always been drawn to WWII literature, but I didn’t know much about this particular time period (1918 WWI). In the Shadow of Blackbirds had me googling historical moments repeatedly: the Spanish Influenza, details of America’s role in the war, the daily life of Americans, and the progress of scientific discovery during that time period. This book became more than an enthralling story; it became a learning experience (I love when books lead me to learning!).
Final Thoughts: A truly unique story! The vivid images of the spirits may stay with me for the near future, but the fitful nights of sleep will be well worth the experience of this novel.
Who Should Read It? I would recommend this to all readers, particularly anyone into the creepy and paranormal or into out-there historical fiction. I would never classify myself as a fanatic of edgy or mysterious stories, but this gripped my attention from beginning to end. It was highly unpredictable, which I love, and had a heart-breaking, but satisfying ending. You can definitely judge this book by its cover, because it won’t disappoint.