Monday, December 13, 2010

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown

Picture the DeadPicture the Dead by Adele Griffin and illustrated by Lisa Brown (Sourcebooks - Fire) didn't grab me right away; I think the cover misdirected me a little, though on reflection, the font, at least, is evocative of the insides.

Jennie, of Brookline, Massachusetts, has lost her twin, Toby, and her half-cousin (and fiancé) Will to the Civil War. Only Will's taciturn brother Quinn has come home, and her help nursing Quinn's injury isn't quite enough to keep Jennie safe from being turned out by heartless Aunt Clara and Uncle Henry. She's reduced to servitude in her foster home, to things like running errands for Uncle Henry, who wants to consult a medium about Quinn's death, but who can't be debased to set up an appointment for something like that. Then things start to go grimmer--phantom necklaces that tighten in Jennie's sleep, a ghostly undertow, the claustrophobia of attic rooms. Most everyone Jennie loves is dead; is she next?

Chapters are interspersed with illustrations representing Jennie's scrapbook, providing clues or examples related to Jennie's adventures. I thought these were a little younger than this Gothic romance came across, but they grew on me as the story went along, and by the end, I was hooked on the illustrations as well, and the book design was really a great part of my reading experience. (I hope to see more books like this, actually.)

Picture the Dead hits a bunch of the tropes that you'd expect to see in a story with ghosts, a medium, and a brooding, gloomy household, but the results aren't ghastly at all--rather, deliciously shivery. Readers who liked A Drowned Maiden's Hair a few years ago might like this one now.

I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.

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