In the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Winters, Cat






In San Diego in 1918, as influenza and World War I take their toll, Mary Shelley Black watches mourners flock to s‚eances and spirit photographers for comfort and must consider if ghosts are real when her first love, killed in battle, returns.





Cat Winters was born and raised near Disneyland in Southern California. She is the creator of suburbanvampire.blogspot.com, and she runs corsetsandcutlasses.wordpress .com, a group blog featuring authors of YA historical fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.





*Starred Review* Winters' debut ropes in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, WWI shell shock, national prejudice, and spirit photography, and yet never loses focus from its primary thesis: desperation will make people believe-and do-almost anything. Mary Shelley Black, 16, has been sent to live with her aunt in San Diego, a city crawling with gauze mask-wearing citizens fearful of catching the deadly virus. Loss is everywhere, which means booming business for spirit photographer Julius, the older brother of Mary's true love, Stephen, who is off fighting in the trenches. Stephen's death coincides with Mary suffering electrocution, an event with strange aftereffects: Mary sends compass needles spinning, can taste emotions, and begins to see and hear Stephen's ghost, in torment over the maniacal "birdmen" that tortured and killed him. Mary believes his spirit will rest when she uncovers the truth about his death-a truth more horrifying than most readers will expect. A scattering of period photos, including eerie examples of spirit photography, further the sense of time and place, but the main event here is Winters' unconventional and unflinching look at one of the darkest patches of American history. More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.





A bright young woman is caught between science and spiritualism in her quest to make sense of a world overcome with war and disease in 1918 California. Mary Shelley Black's world has been turned upside down by the arrest of her father at their home in Portland, Ore. It is 1918, and the country is at war; those who speak out against it, like her father, find themselves persecuted. Mary Shelley flees to her Aunt Eva in San Diego to avoid possible fallout from the arrest and since it might be a better place to wait out the influenza epidemic that is sweeping the country. Her new home allows her to reconnect with the family of her first love, Stephen, now a soldier fighting in the war. This place is just as full of anxiety and fear as Portland, the toll from war and disease sending her families grasping at anything to alleviate their pain. Stephen's distasteful half brother, Julius, exploits those fears and the growing interest in the occult by serving as a "spirit photographer"-an occupation Mary Shelley is skeptical of until Stephen is killed and she is visited by his ghost. 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. Vintage photographs contribute to the authenticity of the atmospheric and nicely paced storytelling. (Historical fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.






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