Synopsis: (From Goodreads) In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
Thoughts: I picked up this book because of the cover. I mean, how great is this cover?? (The cover artist did an amazing job recreating one of the scenes from the book, too!) And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great read. Winters is a solid writer who has engrossing prose. The story is entertaining on several levels – there’s the angst of losing a first love, the horror of war, the fear of death, and then the terror of spirits.
What I wasn’t expecting was the introduction of an actual spirit. In the descriptions, there’s talk of spiritualism and seances, which I love. But this book goes beyond that. It focuses on what happens when a young girl actually CAN see a spirit. It talks about the fallacy of spiritualism of the time, but also gives the reader something to believe in. Winters had a good mix of using fact, superstition and magic with these areas.
The protagonist is easy to like. She’s a young girl who was in love with a boy who went to fight in Europe. Her angst over his death isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t “drown” the reader. It’s easy to like her and want things to work out. I almost kept hoping that Stephen would come back. (SPOILER: He doesn’t.)