Vintage photographs contribute to the authenticity of the atmospheric and nicely paced storytelling.

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

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)

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0530-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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THE PAPER GIRL OF PARIS

Passionate, impulsive Chloe and her popular older sister, Adalyn, were inseparable—until the Nazis invaded France in 1940 and Adalyn started keeping secrets.

Over half a century later, Alice, Chloe’s 16-year-old American granddaughter, has just inherited her childhood home in Paris. The fully furnished apartment has clearly been neglected for decades and raises more questions than it answers: Why didn’t Gram talk about her childhood? Who is the second girl in the photos throughout the apartment? Why didn’t Gram’s family return there after the war? Alice’s father is reluctant to discuss anything that might upset Alice’s mother, who’s still reeling from her mother’s death, so Alice decides to find answers on her own. What she eventually learns both shocks and heals her family. Chapters alternate between Alice’s and Adalyn’s voices, narrating Adalyn’s experience as a French Christian of the Nazi occupation and Alice’s attempts to understand what happened after the war. The girls’ stories parallel one another in significant ways: Each has a romance with a young Frenchman, each has a parent struggling with depression, and each must consider the lengths she would go to protect those she loves. Though at times feeling a bit rushed, Alice’s engaging contemporary perspective neatly frames Adalyn’s immersive, heartbreaking story as it slowly unfolds—providing an important history lesson as well as a framework for discussing depression. Alice and her family are white.

Gripping. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293662-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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