Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.
Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.
From the moment I heard this was coming down the line I was excited about it. I love nothing more than a book with art in it, and the idea of mixing a silent graphic novel with a regular novel deeply intrigued me. Of course having a wonderful artist attached to a project such as this makes it a given that it's going to be beautiful, but there was always the possibility it might be more gimmick then strong story telling.
Like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I was delighted to see the story make ideal use of its graphic portions so that the writing and images not only meshed together really well but they also augmented each other. For most of the book, the reader is guessing at what's going on in the graphic portion. Although it is clear it's tied into the story, it's impossible to tell who anyone is, what exactly is going on and how it ties to the time frame of the written story. Because although the graphic portion jumps through time, the written portion doesn't, and unlike the graphic bits, the time period in the written part is never explicitly given.
The overall effect was one of deep mystery, and I loved having a constant string of speculation as to who I was following in the images and what his goal was (he clearly was chasing down something as well as a variety of someones but there were no clear whys). The final reveal at the end was shocking and so exciting I doubled back to re- "read" all the illustrated bits.
Beautifully executed, and a page turning read, I highly recommend you add this one to your growing summer reads pile. You won't be disappointed.
In the Shadows, By Kiersten White, and Jim Di Bartolo
Published by Scholastic, April 29th, 2014