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THE YEAR OF SHADOWS by Claire Legrand


by Claire Legrand ; illustrated by Karl Kwasny

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4424-4294-8
Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Already saddled with a major father issue, young Olivia Stellatella acquires ghost problems too after she’s forced to live in the backstage rooms of a decrepit concert hall.

Contemptuously referring to her father—loser of wife, house and, as conductor of an orchestra on the skids, probably job—throughout as “the Maestro,” Olivia sets new standards for unlikability as she nurses feelings of abandonment in the wake of her mother’s abrupt disappearance. Notwithstanding concerted efforts to alienate everyone, though, she acquires several friends who prove sturdy allies when needed. Not only does the town mayor deliver an ultimatum to increase ticket sales 1,000 percent or face dissolution, but the concert hall proves to be haunted by both a quartet of friendly ghosts and a number of mindlessly malicious shades. Olivia resolves to lay the ghosts to rest even though that requires allowing them to inhabit a living mind to re-experience their deaths. As in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (2012), Legrand shows twin knacks for creating creepy supernatural elements and thoroughly scary experiences for her central characters. Though here she forces an overly tidy resolution, she also cleverly integrates the storylines to leave the ghosts, the orchestra’s future, and her rude, surly but also admirably courageous protagonist in happier places.

Ultimately a feel-good story, though readers will wade through tides of bad, angry, heartbroken and horror-struck feelings to get there. (Horror/fantasy. 11-13)