Harry N. Abrams, 4/2013
Our April 3013 Fantastic First Young Adult Pick
This is a young adult miracle of a novel that will
definitely also appeal to adults who love a hauntingly historical story.
The setting is our own San Diego in the grips of the First
World War, a bleak and paranoid time in history when young men were terrorized
and injured by the latest in war technology, such as machine guns, high
explosive shells and mustard gas. Simultaneously, the “Spanish Flu” epidemic of
1918 claimed the lives of at least 20 million people worldwide. The average
life expectancy dropped to thirty-nine, and prompted a craving for séances and
Enter Mary Shelley, a precocious sixteen year old whose
mom is dead and dad has just been imprisoned for anti-war propaganda. She
travels to San Diego to stay with an aunt and is reunited with her long time
childhood friend, Stephen, whom she now realizes she is in love with.
Tragically, he has just enlisted in the Army and leaves her behind to deal with
the horrifying bleakness and craziness of the time. The rest of this tale
involves shady spirit photography, desperate measures to fight the deadly flu,
glimpses at the atrocious casualties of the war, ghosts, blackbirds, insanity,
a few attempted murders and more. As if it needed more appeal, the book is
illustrated with haunting early twentieth-century photographs.