Title: The Year of Shadows
Author: Claire Legrand (website ★ twitter)
Pub. Date: August 27, 2013
Source: e-ARC via edelwiess (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: Middle Grace, Paranormal
The year the ghosts came started like this: The Maestro kicked open the door, dropped his suitcase to the floor, and said, “Voila!”
Olivia Stellatella used to have a great life. Her father, maestro of an orchestra; a wonderful mother and grandmother; a warm house. Now her mother is gone, simply leaving the family one day. The orchestra that had once made her proud is now failing and the music hall is falling to pieces. In an attempt to save money – and the orchestra – Otto moved what was left of his family into the hall; the cold storage room is now home. Olivia retreats into herself, ignoring her once-large group of friends and pushing others away.
Life at the hall is both unbearable and mortifying – until four ghosts make their presence known. Suddenly Olivia is caught up in their world, the fascinating (& terrifying) world of Death and Limbo and the awful shades. These ghosts need her and Olivia is determined to help.
“Midnight,” Frederick smiled dreamily. “How poetic of you. Important things always happen at midnight.”
Let it be known that I love Claire Legrand. Absolutely ADORE her. I recently read her debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (my review here!), and it blew me away. The second I finished I knew Claire would be an auto-buy author. Naturally, I was a little worried before starting The Year of Shadows: I thought so highly of Cavendish, what if this new one fell flat? What if Claire was just a one-hit wonder and her debut was simply a fluke?
It turns out my fears were totally silly and ridiculous: The Year of Shadows is just as lovely as Cavendish. 12-year-old Olivia is hurt and upset and embarrassed over her new housing situation and I felt for her. Not only did she just lose her mother – with no explanation! – but her father is becoming obsessed with a dying orchestra and Olivia’s stuck living in a storage room! She’s so angry with her father that she no longer calls him Dad, he’s simply Maestro.
Along with her grandmother, Igor (a cat that more-or-less adopted the family as opposed to the other way around), and a sweet couple who run a tea shop and allow Olivia to help out after school, Henry – usher at the hall and fellow classmate – refuses to give up on Olivia. Henry used to sit at the popular table. Now he’s sitting with Olivia. Olivia’s not the only one hiding secrets and Henry won’t let her hide from the world.
While the living characters were fantastic, the ghosts really stole the show (and made me more than a little teary-eyed!). There are four haunting the hall: Frederick, Jax, Tillie, and Mr. Worthington. Although they lived during different times, they’re bound to the music hall and it’s impending destruction will also bring about theirs. The only way they can safely cross over is to find their anchors – the object that’s keeping them in this world. Unfortunately, once dead, the ghost forgets all memories of living and the only way to recover those memories is through a living body.
Now, possession is an ugly word. The ghost prefer the term sharing, as in, they’re be sharing Olivia’s and Henry’s bodies as well as sharing their memories. Also, they’ll share their moment of death and any pain they might have gone through. Obviously Olivia and Henry are both hesitant, but ultimately they decide it’s for the best. The scenes through the ghosts’ eyes, so to speak, broke my heart. Especially Mr. Worthington’s scenes. He had been my favorite throughout the entire novel and learning how he died was too much for me.
Have you ever watched people when they don’t know you’re watching them? Like in a movie theater or a concert. When people get caught up in watching something, their faces change. The lines on their faces get softer, because whatever they’re watching has made them forget how they think they’re supposed to be looking. Instead, they just are – just sitting there, listening and watching and being real.
There were numerous twists and turns, including some I truly hadn’t expected! While everything wrapped up very nicely, I wouldn’t mind another book featuring Olivia and Henry. Particularly with their super-adorable-and-obvious-yet-unspoken crush on one another. SO. CUTE. And Igor? Crazy awesome.
With two books under her belt, Claire Legrand has proven her immense skill as a writer and I stick by my initial judgement: if you have an auto-buy author list, Claire deserves a place on it.