Title: Picture the Dead
Author: Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural/Paranormal
Publication Date: 2010
It is 1864, and Jennie Lovell is alone. Orphaned as children, she and her twin brother Toby have survived living with their aunt and uncle by playing spy and leaving notes for each other. But that was years ago. Now Toby is dead, as is Jennie’s beloved fiance, William. Both died in battle.
Dead doesn’t necessarily mean gone, however. Both men visit Jennie in her dreams, and William in particular seems to have something he wants to say. But whom should Jennie believe: the man she believes she loved, or the brother who returned home with a secret behind his ruined eye? Is there life after death…and can the living be trusted?
I first heard about Picture the Dead from Small Review, a blog I’ve started following recently. I was intrigued at the idea of reading a novel which functions partially as a scrapbook, and Small Review’s description of the story as spooky and full of twists practically made my mouth water.
Jennie is an interesting character. She’s a bit of a kleptomaniac, so most of the photographs, letters, and memorabilia in her scrapbook aren’t actually hers. These items create great (although sadly not tactile) additions to the narrative, and were just as tantalizing as the story itself — keep a sharp eye on them, as several give clues to what’s ahead.
The reader is surrounded by characters it’s impossible to trust: Heinrich Geist, a photographer of the dead; Aunt Clara, a horrible woman who can’t wait to get rid of Jennie; and Quinn, William’s handsome brother who, no matter sweetly he behaves, I just couldn’t make myself like.
Set during the Civil War, the language is surprisingly modern, the mystery enthralling, and the end jaw-dropping (my jaw really did drop). The book is categorized as “Young Adult Fiction,” but it’s a far cry from the drippy/sappy/terrible literature which surrounded it on the library shelf. Picture the Dead is spooky, full of well-developed characters, and was a highly enjoyable read.
Have you read Picture the Dead? What do you think about books that incorporate scrapbook-like drawings and items?