Review: In The Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters

Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Published By: Amulet Books
Pages: 400
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list

Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis: 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.


What is not to love about this book?! 1918 America. Spanish influenza outbreak. War. Seances and spiritual photography. There were so many parts to this story, yet it was all interwoven so beautifully and completely that it worked really well.

1918 in the US at this time was a very dreary time. Young boys are being sent off to war, many of them won’t return, or return just a shell of their former selves. People are dying by the minute from influenza. For Mary Shelley Black and her Aunt, they spend their time bathing in onions, eating onions, putting salt in their noses just to try and avoid flu germs from touching them. They start seeing their neighbours die of the flu and start feeling the panic of the flu coming closer and closer to them.

Mary Shelley is hard to keep still however, as she feels unsettled when her love Stephen dies at war, and his ghost starts visiting her. He cannot rest, he is suffering in the afterlife and only Mary Shelley can help him. Breaking the rules, Mary Shelley risks her own life (in more ways than one) in order to help Stephen move on.

I loved the grimy gothic feel this book has. It is dark and the reality that Mary Shelley is living is scary in itself. The characters are rich and real, and you feel you know who you can and can’t trust when everything gets shifted beneath you and you’re hit with the “twist”.

Underneath the creepy facade however is a really touching story of love knowing no bounds. At first I was skeptical of how this was going to play out, but I have to say, having those sweet touches between Mary and Stephen scattered throughout the pages helped to make this book as enjoyable as it was!

Overall, I adored this book, I love how different it was to any other YA novel I’ve read, and the real 1920’s style photos added in between these pages added to the creepiness of the entire story. I am highly recommending this book to everyone - my only tip is to not read this one in the dark! ;)


What do you think?

  • YA Asylum says:

    […] Book Nerd Reviews 5 out of 5 […]

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