Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin+ Lisa Brown

Genre: YA historical fiction/supernatural 
Page Count: 258 (Hardcover)
Published: May 2010 by Sourcebooks Fire
Recommended for: anyone who likes a good ghost story or Civil War era fiction 

Synopsis: A ghost will find his way home.  But I am not a ghost.  And this house is not my home.

Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past.
When Jennie forms an unlikely alliance with a spirit photographer, she begins to uncover secrets about the man she thought she loved. With her sanity on edge and her life in the balance, can Jennie expose the chilling truth before someone-or something-stops her?
Against the brutal, vivid backdrop of the American Civil War, Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown have created a spellbinding mystery where the living cannot always be trusted and death is not always the end.
My Thoughts:


I had very high expectations for Picture the Dead, having read a lot glowing praise for the book, including the cover quote by Holly Black, one of my favorite authors.  I wasn't disappointed: this is an atmospheric book, perfectly plotted, with so many details of the Civil War era that it sort of reminded me of Gone with The Wind, even though the protagonist Jennie and her cousins are part of the Union.  The mix of Spiritualism and murder mystery works brilliantly, and proves a potent combination.

The main character, Jennie, has so much spirit and courage for a girl of her time that I cannot help but compare her to Scarlett O'Hara. (Though, luckily, Jennie isn't half as fickle as Scarlett.)  She tells her story via first-person narration, carefully intertwined with the images of her scrapbook every few pages.  Letters written in tiny cursive are common, and my one major compliant with the book was that it was very difficult to read many of the letters and side-notes, a few of which were crucial to the story.  The beginning of the book is less enthralling than the middle, or the heart-stopping climax before the end, but a reader who sticks with it will be rewarded by a truly immersing story and insight into the characters which populate its pages.

There are technically two love interests for Jennie: Will, her fiance who dies while away at war. and his brother Quinn, who returns from the battlefield more enigmatic than ever and missing an eye.  It's less than a typical love triangle, though, considering that Will is, of course, dead.  Ghosts and supernatural photography aside, it is easy to feel Will's lingering presence throughout the book, in Jennie's thoughts and memories.  Part of her has given up after losing Will (a few years after losing her family as well), and part of her longs to move on and maybe start a new life with Quinn.  This is what I mean when I say there is a love triangle.  The end has a shocking twist that I didn't even guess at, and the eerie aftertaste of this book is one that will linger with you long after you've read it.  I think it would make a spectacular movie.

Overall Rating: 5/5

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