Amanda Hogg reviews Picture the Dead ($8.99, Sourcebooks, Ages 10+)
16 year old Jennie has had a rough life. After her parents died, she and her twin brother were sent to live with a despicable aunt, cowed uncle and two cousins – Will and Quinn. Jennie briefly finds happiness after she and Will fall in love and become engaged, but that happiness is short-lived as Will and her brother are killed in the Civil War. Jennie is devastated by her loss, terrified about her future and haunted by Will’s ghost. Luckily, Quinn, Will’s brother, comes home from the war with the intention of marrying Jennie, which should secure her future – or so she thinks.
Because Will had been kind and good to her while Quinn had been cruel and scornful, Jennie is immediately suspicious of his intentions towards her. As Quinn begins to protect and defend her from his mother, her fears about his real intentions lessen, but the frequency and intensity of Will’s spectral visits, which frequently manifest as hands wrapped around her neck, increase. To set Will’s spirit at peace, Jennie begins to investigate his death, which leads her down a confusing path strewn with lies and schemes, and makes her question who she can trust – the new, kind Quinn, or Will’s ghost.
Part historical fiction, part gothic mystery, part scrapbook, Adele Griffin’s words and Lisa Brown’s illustrations in Picture the Dead provide a complete picture of the lives wrecked, the careers created and the hearts broken by the Civil War. Picture the Dead weaves the Spiritualism that was rampant during and after the Civil War into the storyline in the character of Geist, a medium who claims he can capture spirits in photographs. The illustrations serve to explain how Daguerreotypes were made and forged in addition to providing clues to Will’s mysterious death. Picture the Dead is a transportive read that will leave readers chilled to the bone.