Jennie feels the tingling prescence of something unnatural in the house now that Will is dead.
Her heart aches without him, and she still doesn't know how he really died. It seems that everywhere she turns, someone is hiding yet another clue. As Jennie seeks the truth, she finds herself drawn ever deeper into a series of tricks and lies, secrets and betrayals, and begins to wonder if she had ever really known Will at all.
Printed copy, 258 pages
Published 2012 by Sourcebooks Fire
Honestly, I didn't expect much from this book. Romance, a girl obsessively sniffing out other people's secrets... I actually picked this up on Saturday because I didn't want to be seen with it at school. Shameful, I know.
I was surprised at how well it was written. The main character, Jennie, was an outcast in this prissy house, with filthy clothes, running about, getting engaged at sixteen. Her twin brother, who had died in the Civil War, had always wanted to be a spy, and after his death she took to sleuthing about, stealing things to put in her scrapbook.
One thing I was confused with at first was Will. Apparently, Will is both Jennie's fiance and cousin, which I figured out after the first chapter or so. Being the person I am, I accepted this and moved on (the Ancient Egyptians married full brother/sister, even father/daughter; why not two cousins?).
Another thing I couldn't tell was where this story takes place. I know it's during the American Civil War, but are they Yankees or Southerners? It took me a good half of the book to realize they were from Massachusetts.
I liked the pictures, though. in my printed copy, there are pictures at the end of each chapter that foretell the next chapter. It made it feel somewhat middle-grade, despite the fact that she's sixteen, but I did feel that it helped my opinion of the book. I'm a sucker for pictures.
Also, there is a good deal of research on photography: really early photography from this time period, which involved lots of chemicals, and exposure to the right amount of light, and so forth. This is called tintype photography, I believe. I know next to nothing about this early process, and don't feel like Googling it, so I'll take its word.
I debated at first between rating this 2 and 3 stars. I felt that a lot of this could've been solved with a simple conversation, and that the authors were simply avoiding getting these characters to talk. And then when the Conversation happened, the romance happens, too, within that one conversation. As in, Jennie figures out pieces of things from Will's spirit, and confronts this boy about it. (I'm not spoiling it.) Then, when he confesses this story about Will's shameful death, they kiss, and she realizes this boy - who she's known forever - might be the one she loves. They end up engaged, before Will's funeral.
Even to my asexual eye, romance does not happen like that. And who gets engaged before their ex-fiance is buried (metaphorically, since his body wasn't even recovered)?
I wanted to smack Jennie up the head. She starts bathing and looking pretty for him. Ick. But then, something happens that turns this story on a dime. And all of a sudden, she realizes the full truth, the boy she engaged herself to is a psycho, and just everything changes. This bumped my opinion of it up quite a bit.
Overall, it was somewhat good. The bad and the good weighed about the same. I give it three stars.
(By the way, Happy Labor Day! And to those who don't celebrate it, Happy Monday!)