The Year of Shadows - Claire Legrand


Olivia Stellatella’s life seems to be falling apart. Her mother left home, and her father, the Maestro, pays more attention to his struggling orchestra than to Olivia. In order to keep the orchestra afloat financially, the Maestro sells their house, forcing Olivia, her father, and grandmother to move into the back rooms of the decaying concert hall. However, Olivia and her family are not the only occupants; there are are four ghosts haunting the hall, and they need Olivia’s help.

This is a nice, bittersweet novel about dealing with loss, moving on, and learning to open up again. Olivia is an excellently drawn character, and comes off as a real 12 year old. It’s easy to sympathize with her situation and her actions come off as very understandable, if petulant at times. The side characters are well developed as well, including Olivia’s classmate Henry and the four main ghost characters. Igor, Olivia’s cat, is also really memorable, with Olivia imagining his perfectly cat-like dialogue.

Olivia and Henry are tasked with helping the four ghosts who haunt the concert hall move on, by helping each find his or her “anchor” to the living world. This is partly accomplished by “sharing” with each ghost, a neat concept in which the ghost relives the relevant memory. There’s one weird sharing that takes Olivia and Henry to a war-torn future, as apparently ghosts don’t experience time linearly. The implications of this are never fully addressed, instead serving to help Olivia move on with her own life.

This is a good middle-grade novel, and more sweet than creepy. The ending is suitably uncertain, but the story is ultimately about Olivia, and what’s important is that she’s once again whole.

A review copy was provided through the first reads program.