Title: Picture the Dead
Author: Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown [Adele Griffin Website] [Adele Griffin Twitter] [Lisa Brown Twitter]
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Provided by Publisher
Parental Warning: war, criminal activity
“Soon the roads widen and the spaces between buildings open as I leave the city behind. There are miles of darkness before me. I want to rest, but I push on, hurrying and then slowing to catch my breath before picking up pace again. After a while my legs ache with the desire to stop, and it is only my anxious energy that vaults me forward, onward, charged with no greater impulse than to run.”
Summary (from the publisher):
Jennie Lovell’s life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiance falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past.
When Jennie forms an unlikely alliance with a spirit photographer, she begins to uncover secrets about the man she thought she loved. With her sanity on edge and her life in the balance, can Jennie expose the chilling truth before someone — or something — stops her?
Picture the Dead is an interesting story about the impact the loss of a young Civil War soldier has on his family. Not the first to fall to the hands of the Confederacy Will leaves behind his fiance Jennie, a young girl with no family of her own. Having already grown up at the unrelenting hands of Will’s condescending mother and indifferent father she is once again thrust into second class citizen status upon news of his demise. Practically a servant Jennie endures the continually passive aggressive attitude of her aunt as each day more and more of her life — her engagement ring, her freedom from housework, etc — is taken away from her.
Enhanced beautifully by illustrations created by Lisa Brown, Picture the Dead not only tells a story but shows it. Joining in on a trend I’ve seen more of recently, the addition of pages providing the reader with visual elements adding further depth and perspective to the written words, Picture the Dead embraces it well. Setting the tone for both characters and physical surroundings Brown provides the reader with excellent visuals. Her imagery was lovely in the ARC I was reading but I imagine that the final version is even more pleasing to the eye. The best part is that these additions don’t overwhelm the story nor are readers wading through useless information. I have only one complaint about their inclusion and that is that the font selected for Will’s letters was difficult to read. This was a minor issue, however, and one that should not keep anyone from reading the book.
Another aspect of the story that wasn’t overdone or out of place was the inclusion of small paranormal elements. The infusion of ghosts made sense and was a believable addition to the story. Not wanting to spoil any of the twists and turns as it relates to these aspects of the story I’ll simply say that the way this element of the story played out was an interesting addition and created a richer tone to the mystery. While not a mystery story in the grandest sense, there were several twists and revalations throughout that were very well done. I was so caught up in the history and Jennie’s characterization that some crept up on me. I’m sure this was Griffin’s intent and she did not disappoint as I enjoyed being surprised by a few of the turns I encountered.
Certainly age appropriate for the young adult crowd and I would even go as far as saying that the middle grade reader would enjoy this book as well. I don’t know that the attention of the youngest middle graders would be grabbed by it, the story would need to be a bit more amped up for them, but certainly if a teacher were wanting a fun book that gave some small into families affected by the Civil War this might be a good quick read that would exemplify a few points here and there.
In the end, if you like historical perspective with some good imagery attached Picture the Dead is definitely worth a read.