In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

A Novel

Book - 2013
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  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 s#65533;ances 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.

Praise for In The Shadow of Blackbird s
STARRED REVIEW "Winters's masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery."
-- Publishers Weekly , starred review

STARRED REVIEW "More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice."
-- Booklist , starred review

STARRED REVIEW "Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance. Excellent pacing and deliciously creepy descriptions..."
-- School Library Journal , starred review

"This engrossing combination of historical fiction, ghost story, psychological thriller, and straight-up whodunit moves between genres with stunning ease, maximizing the tropes of each to satisfying effect."
-- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"Mary Shelley is a likable, sympathetic heroine, and through her story, teen readers will get a glimpse of a fascinating time period, made all the more real by the haunting historic photographs that pepper the novel, from soldiers in trenches to policemen in gauze masks. Part romance, part mystery and part ghost story, In the Shadow of Blackbirds makes palpable a terrifying time that brought the horror of death into the homes of millions."
-- Bookpage

"One of the creepiest (in a good way) covers of the season! What's inside, historical Y.A. set at the time of the Spanish influenza, is equally haunting."
-- The Atlantic Wire

"Cat Winter's debut novel is creepy good."
-- The Boston Globe

"Romance fans will love Stephen's ghostly visits to Mary Shelley, confirming that their romance is as steamy as ever. Mystery lovers will enjoy the satisfactory resolution of the puzzle. Recommend this title to fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners ."
-- VOYA

"In this book, the passion of first love and the paranoia of the times are realistically and movingly rendered."
-- The Oregonian

"Beautifully written and absolutely riveting. I enjoyed everything about this book."
-- The Statesman Journal

Award
William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist 2014
School Library Journal Best Book of 2013
2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults
Publisher: New York : Amulet Books, c2013.
ISBN: 9781419705304
Branch Call Number: YA WIN
Characteristics: 387 p. ; 22 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

List - Peculiar Picks
Lisa_Marie_C Sep 22, 2016

History, mystery, ghosts, and a touch of romance all blend perfectly together in this haunting novel.


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SCL_Justin Aug 03, 2017

In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters, was a “holy cuss that was great” YA historical/sf novel. It’s set in San Diego in October 1918 with fresh-faced teenage boys heading off to die in the war and the Spanish Influenza killing everyone else.

Mary Shelley Black is a 16-year-old girl who’s just fled to her aunt’s home because her father’d been arrested back in Portland for helping young men escape the draft. Down in San Diego, where Mary Shelley’s childhood friend (and first kiss) was a young photographer before heading off to France, she gets caught up in a world of superstition, spirit photography and death. She’s got a scientific mind and hates all these frauds that surround her, until something happens. Which I won’t spoil.

I loved this book so much. I think what I loved most was that it kept knocking my expectations off-kilter. I thought it was going to be a story about this practical skeptical girl staying steadfast in her belief in facts and waiting for her true love to come home from the war and her father to get out of jail. Then I thought it was going to become a story of rebellion against her young widowed aunt (who works building battleships and is distraught she had to cut her hair and lose so much of her femininity for going to séances) who believes too much in what other people say. Then I was scared it was going to turn into a wide-eyed ghost story, and then I was happy to see it become a mystery. It didn’t settle into a pattern early.

One of the things they say about writing is to start as late as you can. Have the most interesting thing happen right at the beginning and then you can fill in backstory later. Though Mary Shelley’s father is arrested pretty much on the first page, there are other later parts where the story maybe could have started. But I’m so glad it didn’t. The way this skeptical heroine was set up in the beginning would not have worked as well as backstory. Seeing her before and after for ourselves was, in my mind, integral to the layers of shifting belief and the scientific mindset on display throughout what is to be honest a ghost story.

Along with being a historical ghost story, it also feels apocalyptic with the flu and all that death and folk-remedy hanging over everything. Plus it’s got this great anti-war activist stance running through it. It’s not anti-heroism, but it calls out so much of the adventure story bullshit. The heroes in this story are all about these basic acts of decency in a world that’s sick.

So yes, this is highly recommended.

s
SashaE
Aug 27, 2016

This was an amazing and a can't-put-down book.
I loved it and it was just very good.

A whip smart heroine, Spiritualist photography, and a paranormal love story set in the tumultuous year of World War I AND the Spanish Influenza. Really well-researched and well-written. Spooky and atmospheric. I really enjoyed this one.

d
dtaggard
Oct 20, 2015

This was an amazing book that captured the fear and hopeless emotions of 1918 mixed with paranormal experiences.

b
Birdbox
Jul 07, 2015

This is a really good book for those who like dark books. It is linked to historical events in a fictional story. The author sets the scene well displaying the harshness of past society. It is a good book that is written well, and draws the reader into reading it.

Kereesa May 27, 2015

This gave me chills down my spine and a smile to my lips. I have been wanting a paranormal historical novel ever since devouring AGATB several years ago. This one almost made me forget dear Libba's words. Almost.

m
mbssmith
Apr 03, 2015

I loved this book. I loved Mary Shelley and the element of photography. I also enjoyed Mary's goggles and the themes they brought up. I was not a fan of the character development of Aunt Eva, and her constant pestering about Stephen, but overall this was a very good book. I loved the ending and the solution.

n
naw666
Jan 08, 2015

Loved this book! I read it last year and it has stayed in my memory. Enjoyed reading about the great influenza of 1918 and also the description of gorgeous Coronado Island (which I plan to visit some day). And the dialogue made me feel as if I were living back in that era. Hope there's a sequel. :)

f
falconroom
Apr 30, 2014

A ghost/love/mystery story that starts out quite slowly & a bit confusingly (who is this young woman with her goggles (steampunk?) and what is she doing with ghosts appearing in her photos and in her life? But about 1/3 way thru the love story & maddening ghost story grabs you; the rest of the novel I devoured. Good scary night reading!

c
ckaterun
Aug 15, 2013

This is a fascinating work of historical fiction. It interweaves three strands--World War I, the Spanish Flu epidemic, and the spiritualist movement. Beyond that, it is gripping and a bit romantic. Great character development.

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b
Birdbox
Jul 07, 2015

A few weeks after arriving to stay with her aunt to escape the flu, science minded Mary shelly is thrown into a world of chaos. Flu victims are hauled down the streets in wagons and men die every day fighting in world war II. To add to that, Mary Shelly begins to hear the spirit of her childhood friend. Determined to out his spirit to rest, Mary dives into a world of chaos, seances and desperate photographers.

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