In Ledbetter’s debut YA novel, a talented artist discovers that his new sketchbook harbors a dangerous secret.
Cameron Shade is a typical high school student in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he’s not studying art and journalism, he’s either playing online video games with his best friend, Jameson Scott, or visiting the art supply store owned by his mentor, Marco Cassisi. Cameron also has a crush on Farrah Spangled, his journalism classmate and editor of the school newspaper, but she has a boyfriend. Cameron faces a tragic loss when Cassisi dies suddenly. After his estate is settled, Cameron receives an unusual bequest, a seemingly ordinary sketchbook. Inside the sketchbook, Cameron discovers a note warning him to “draw things, not people.” One night, Cameron sketches Farrah in the book, and the drawing seems to speak to him. When the drawing asks Cameron about her name, he decides to call her Echo. The next day, Echo is joined by another drawing named Vittoria. Farrah’s health soon declines and Cameron learns that her soul is being absorbed into the book. What started as an idle sketch soon turns into a race against time as Cameron journeys into the sketchbook to save Farrah. Ledbetter successfully makes his fantastic premise very believable, thanks to well-developed lead characters and settings. He has a solid protagonist in Cameron, an earnest young man trying to find his identity as an artist, and he surrounds Cameron with a supportive father and group of friends. Farrah is a good foil for Cameron, and Ledbetter does a fine job developing their friendship and romantic connection. The action plays out in the real world of Wilmington and the world Cameron discovers inside the sketchbook, with Ledbetter rendering both in bold and intricate detail. Scenes in which Echo and Vittoria come to life on the page and begin communicating with Cameron are particularly impressive. Because this is not a graphic novel, descriptions are important, and Ledbetter’s finely detailed descriptions serve as effective illustrations for Cameron’s journey.
Inventive, fast-paced fantasy with imaginative settings and engaging characters.