Author: Cat Winters.
Published: April 2nd 2013 by Amulet Books.
Sort: Stand-alone, historical + paranormal.
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?
Mary Shelly fled from her home when they took her father as prisoner. On her way it’s obvious that the country is in desperation. The Spanish influenza claims lives every day and there is a constant fear of losing loved ones on the battlefield. People do anything in their desperation; séances and spirit photographers are more than happy to provide them with comfort for a good price. Mary doesn’t believe in all that nonsense, until Julian (Stephen’s brother) takes her picture and Stephen’s ghost appears on the background. Stephen is her childhood lover and he signed up to go to war. His ghost haunts her now and it’s up to her to help him find peace. She must find out what happened to him.
This story was spooky and the addition of real photographs created an extra creepy atmosphere. I loved it! The photographs made it even easier to connect with the story. It’s not difficult to understand why people gave so much money for a picture with their deceased loved ones. I liked how scientific Mary was and how she didn’t believe in those spirit photographers until she gets visitations from Stephen’s ghost. He has no rest and keeps telling her that the blackbirds are killing him. He came to the right place, because Mary is a very intelligent, determined young girl. She’s not afraid and despite her sadness, she is capable of clever decisions. I don’t think I could be as tough as she was, because his ghost terrified me.
The mystery was fantastic and I was surprised by the conclusion. I had my suspicions, but she blew me away with the climax. It’s also obvious that Cat Winters did her research on this subject. The Spanish Flu and all the ways people tried to prevent an infection were nicely incorporated. I could feel everyone’s fear, especially from Mary’s aunt. I wish there were more books with such accurate portrayal of an infection disease.
The only thing that let me down was the romance. Stephen and Mary had a fling in the past, but there are only some short moments in the form of flashbacks. I didn’t get enough time to see their love, which gave his death less impact. I wish I felt more sadness in the beginning. It was better towards the ending when the story is wrapped up. I’m going to keep an eye on her next book for sure.