Let me begin by saying that it's very hard to review a book that has already been so spectacularly reviewed by none other than its own author and main character! Check out Claire Legrand's review of The Year of Shadows here.
Below is my more feeble attempt.
Legrand, Claire. 2013. The Year of Shadows. New York: Simon & Schuster.
(Advance Reader Copy)
Twelve-year-old Olivia Stellatella is a loner. Black is her color of choice, and she prefers the company of her ever-present sketchbook to that of her peers at school. It's been a difficult year, what with "The Economy" and all. Olivia doesn't know exactly what "The Economy" means, only that in her case, it means that she now shops at the "charity store" and the orchestra that her father conducts may go out of business, taking his job with it. And her mom has left, an occurrence she blames solely on the Maestro. If that sounds bad, just wait; it gets worse. Having spent all the family funds on the Philharmonic, the family's new "home" is the backstage area of the crumbling Emerson Hall, home of the Philharmonic orchestra.
Initially, her only "friend" is the peculiarly intuitive and communicative cat, Igor.
The cat rolled over at looked at me upside down. "Who's the Maestro?" I rolled over on my back too. Staring at him like this made my head hurt, but it was kind of fun. "Well, technically, he's half my DNA. But I don't like to think about that."
The cat blinked slowly, like he was already half asleep.
"I mean, I guess, yeah, he's my father." I made quotation marks with my fingers. "On paper, maybe. But not to me. I've disowned him, I guess you could say. " I paused, tapping my feet together. "Everyone at school thinks I'm crazy these days, you know. Because of my clothes and because I draw all the time instead of talking to people. I guess by talking to a cat I'm proving them right."Until she makes an unlikely friend in Henry, the "perfect" kid from school.
"Hey, cool," a voice said from above. "You found a cat."
I scrambled up into a sitting position and faced the voice: red hair, tons of freckles, stupid ears that stuck out.
Ugh.Together, Olivia and Henry meet the other inhabitants of Emerson Hall - ghosts, or more specifically, the affable Frederick, the mysterious Mr. Worthington, and the close yet strangely disconnected pair, Tillie and Jax. Frederick and friends may be friendly, but they are desperate as well. Desperate to move on to the world of Death. And there are other more dangerous things than these ghosts haunting Emerson Hall.
If the orchestra cannot make enough money, the hall will be demolished. If the hall is demolished, Olivia and her ghostly friends will become homeless. Olivia believes that perhaps by helping set the ghosts on their way, she can begin to find her own way. In the process, she learns that sometimes, it is only by looking outward to the plights and concerns of others, that we can begin to understand our own.
The Year of Shadows is a dark and gripping tale that is not without humor, supplied primarily by the wryly comedic cat, and the antics of Joan, Olivia's classmate and resident intermediate school protest performer. Olivia has just the right amount of sass and sarcasm for a troubled, but ultimately good, young girl. Goth-lite for middle school readers.
The publisher's site suggests The Year of Shadows for Grades 3-7. I would suggest Grades 4-8, depending on the reader.
Look closely at the cover art for The Year of Shadows and in addition to Olivia and Igor, you will see Frederick, Mr. Worthington, Tillie and Jax.
Coming to a shelf near you, August 27, 2013.
If you're a librarian or book blogger, you may request an Advance Reader Copy of The Year of Shadows on the author's website. I did!