"IN THE SHADOWS," by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo, Scholastic, $21.99, 384 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)
Author Kiersten White and artist Jim Di Bartolo insist on making one thing clear: This is not the average author-illustrator project. "In the Shadows" is a novel, co-written by the pair, that alternates between words and pictures in telling the story.
With beautiful writing and dark illustrations, "In the Shadows" should be appealing to fans of both young adult fantasy and graphic novels.
Following in the footsteps of Brian Selznick's "Wonderstruck," White and Di Bartolo use their prose and rich drawings to bring a complex story to life and fully engage the mind of the reader.
Although the connection between the alternating tales is not perfectly clear at the beginning, the dichotomy clicks soon enough and the puzzle pieces begin to form one whole, wonderful picture.
White writes lovely prose that places readers sometime in the early 1900s and endears them to the characters. There are the sisters, adventurous Minnie and serious Cora. Their mother owns the boarding house where two brothers, ailing Charles and musician Thomas, come to stay for the summer.
Arthur, the traveler, who has been staying at the boarding house for a year, has been keeping a secret, and with the arrival of the brothers, events are put into motion and dark magic surrounds these five teenagers, threatening their lives and forcing them into actions that can change their future forever.
While the actual time spent with these characters is short, White allows them to be known deeply and to develop wonderfully. Each character has his or her own distinct personality and goals that move the story swiftly forward.
Adding tension and action with every frame, Di Bartolo proves that a picture really is worth a thousand words, and his illustrations perfectly contrast yet complement White's turn with the tale. Di Bartolo infuses darkness and mystery into the story with a timeline that moves the characters beyond the summer of White's storyline and through the darkness of the story to illuminate the ideas about the choices we make, such as good versus evil, and underneath it all, a story of true love.
"In the Shadows" is a dynamic story with a pleasing ending that can be read again and again.
While there is no foul language or sexual content, there are some violent drawings and scenes that describe suicide and stabbings.
Tara Creel's email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and she blogs at taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.