The Year of Shadows
Genre: MG, Paranormal
Publication date: August 27th 2013
by Simon & Schuster BfYR
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.
Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.
-A copy was provided by Simon & Schuster for review-
A delightful, yet dark MG novel; The Year of Shadows is dusted with ghosts, entertaining personalities, and an unexpected amount of grave topics which are handled with complete expertise, all through the delicate eyes of a child who is harboring a mountain of pain.
This book is about a young girl, Olivia, who has had to move into this battered concert hall where her father works due to the stupid Economy. Fostering anger towards both her father for bringing her to this dank place, and her mother for leaving without saying goodbye, she’s tuning everyone out to concentrate on the one thing she loves: drawing. Then the ghosts show up. From abandonment to loneliness to grief, Olivia’s heart became my own when I was reading her story; the heavy burden of her sadness is palpable. She’s feeling so much bitterness towards life that it’s affecting how her peers see her at school – mostly as a freak and a loner – as well as how she reacts to others, even when they show kindness. Consequently, we get a character who’s indignant, yet easy to care for; it makes her situation even more saddening – a situation that holds threads of familiarity for many, unfortunately. She does acquire a support system, however. Her friends Henry and Joan who are both quirky – Joan especially, – as well as a hilariously witty cat by the name of Igor, then we can’t forget the ghosts we meet throughout with their own stories and endearing charm. A memorable cast like this is just what I hope to get inside an MG novel.
This plot revolves around two major aspects. One is the hardship of Olivia’s situation including wondering why her mother abandoned her, for which she blames her father and the orchestra. The other revolves around the ghosts who need help finding their anchor to our world so they can finally deal and move on, an ordeal with which Olivia and Henry agree to help. This process is actually pretty dark overall. It involves them letting the ghosts use their minds and bodies to relive their deaths which can be pretty brutal. The first experiment was the least glossed over when we’re brought into an ugly murder scene, this is where we get to see the mental and physical effects of this ordeal on Olivia and Henry. It was actually fascinating in a way and very well imagined, too – same as with the description of the ghosts – for which I commend the author. Most of the other deaths were mainly referenced, leaving it to our imagination with a brief depiction, but the atmosphere was set. While this is all happening, Olivia is dealing with the aforementioned harsh topics of this novel. It’s a story with a lot of intersections, leaving little room to lose any steam; even so, I did find it bordered on the long side. Also, if you’re debating, get a print copy as it has lovely imagery throughout that an ebook (especially the e-ARC) couldn’t do justice.
It’s a novel full of magic, mystery, life, and family. If you enjoy MG novels with a dark vibe that manages to be both sad and beautiful, this is one you should put on your list!