Bookish Review: In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo


In The Shadows

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

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.

Yay for illustrated books!

Let’s be honest here: I only ordered and read this book because I knew it had illustrations in it. I had no idea what the storyline was, I didn’t read the blurb or the reviews or anything like that. I just saw that it was illustrated, added it to my online shopping basket, and ordered it. That’s all it took. (Of course, our next Bookish Guide, which should be ready next week, focuses on illustrated YA so obviously it wasn’t a complete impulse purchase… right? I was buying it for the good of the community as well.)

Now, not everyone will have the same undying love for illustrated YA novels that I have, so just knowing that there are illustrations in this book won’t convince you to buy it like it did for me. But luckily for this book, it offers way more than just eye-candy: the story is engaging (whether text or illustrations), the characters are fun, and the whole experience of reading it is just beautiful and leaves you wanting more!

In The Shadows, Jim Di Bartolo

But since I did buy the book for the illustrations, I may as well talk about them, right? The illustrations are beautiful and very cinematic. I love that while looking from one image to the next, you almost feel as if you’re watching a movie. It’s like a storyboard where you can see the director planning each shot, and in your mind the film just plays and plays. Oh, and I loved the action shots! The illustrations never said anything like “POW!” or “KABAM!” but I was totally hearing those cheesy comic sound effects in my head while looking at them. Jim Di Bartolo does an amazing job telling a story through his illustrations, and I absolutely fell in love with his work here.

Kiersten White had the challenge of keeping up with him, which she did quite well. There are five main characters in this story whose adventure you follow, and though the text is really quite short  when you take into consideration that half the book is made up of illustrations, she was still able to develop well-rounded characters that I quickly fell in love with it. From the spunky to the nervous to the sick to the mysterious, each character sort of had their own defining quality that made them quickly recognizable, but that didn’t trap them into some blank stereotype. All together this little gang was just too much fun to read and I could easily visualize them in my mind – which I loved.

What more can I say, really? I just sort of fell in love with this book – it’s art and text – and by the end of it I was left wanting more, more, more!

In the Shadows, Jim Di Bartolo

Of course, I do have to warn you, it takes some time getting into this book. Most illustrated novels I read have the illustrations accompanying the text to sort of bring the words to life; they are there as an aid, an added bonus, but don’t really change the story. I went into this book expecting something similar. Instead, the illustrations in this novel told their own story. Each chapter would open with a sequence of illustrations telling one story line, and then another story line would appear through the text. While these two stories, text and illustration, are connected and eventually come together, in the beginning there is no obvious connection between the two. I think it is important to recognize that these are two separate story lines and be okay with not seeing the connection between the two early on. Otherwise you’ll sit there scratching your head really confused and it can ruin the entire experience of the book.

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