Review + Giveaway: In the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim di Bartolo

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: young adult historical paranormal
Format/Source: drc, Netgalley/hardcover, gift
Status: standalone

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.

You guys. This book is SO freaking cool! While combining prose with art is not an entirely new concept for young adult with novels like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Winger, etc, I do think that In the Shadows is unlike anything you've ever seen before, even Lips Touch: Three Times, Jim's gorgeous collaboration with Laini Taylor.

What makes In the Shadows so unique? Well, Jim's art is not just illustrations that match up with Kiersten's prose; instead, In the Shadows tells two interconnected stories in separate locations and separate timelines. Interconnected....but how? Well, that's actually a huuuuuge spoiler, and not one I'm going to give you because that would be rude. Also a major spoiler: we don't know who Jim's protagonist is.

That's right. This handsome devil has an unknown name. There are three male protagonists in Kiersten's story, and he could be any of them. Or....OR...he could be someone else entirely. You may think you know, but I guarantee you won't know for sure. I kept guessing all the way until The Big Reveal, and only occasionally was I right. The mystery of it all is thrilling and utterly mesmerizing. In addition to the art story being completely compelling, it's a veritable feast for the eyes. Jim's colors are simultaneously bright yet muted for a vintage look. He masterfully plays with light and, yes, shadows to draw your eyes to important details, especially in busy, crowded frames. Your eye is guided toward the action, but then you could spend hours poring over each individual frame at all the intricate details he includes. My favorite drawings are on pages 316 & 317, in Chicago, and 368 & 369. I can't share because spoilers but OH. MY. GOSH. I could spend all day looking at the hands on 368 alone. (Kiersten told me that's one of her favorites too!)


As for Kiersten, I think this book is her best yet. Her writing is incredibly poetic and super sensory. At the very beginning of chapter three, Thom's fingers are "pounding violently instead of....caressing," and Kiersten mentions the "cool ivory" of piano keys. I could see it, hear it, feel it. Later on, there are smells and tastes, and it's absolutely captivating. She draws out each of the characters–Minnie, Cora, Charles, Thom, and Arthur–and they stand individually, but they also all work in any combination. I love that Kiersten plays with those combinations too: the sisters; the brothers; all three boys; and any mixture of two or three of the group. I love that all of them has a unique relationship with each of the others, and all those relationships, romantic, friendly, and otherwise, make me feel things. If I had to pick, my favorite, though, might be Charles because of his good humor. He's (seemingly) effortlessly charming, and he's got such a sweet spirit, even if he's a bit mischievous at times. I love how his mind runs with thoughts and plans as he tries to put everything and everyone in their own place. Favorite lines of Kiersten's: "[SPOILER] and [SPOILER] found in each other someone to both take care of and be taken care of by, and they were happy and content and had ridiculously fat babies whose laughter was like liquid joy." *dies* FAT BABIES WITH LAUGHTER LIKE LIQUID JOY. *dies again*

The very last thing I want to say is something I NEVER say. If you want to read In the Shadows, do not read the ebook. Either buy a physical copy or borrow from the library. Scholastic allowed me access to the DRC before publication, but I stopped reading almost immediately. I knew that the art would not be displayed to its fullest, and I didn't want to read the book without that full experience so I waited until I had a physical. The ebook is, understandably, fairly expensive because of the art (not only are Jim's pages in full color, but the prose has beautiful formatting as well). I think it's definitely worth the price BUT I also strongly feel that if you are going to invest in a copy, you should go ahead and invest in a stunningly gorgeous physical copy you can enjoy the way it is meant to be enjoyed so you can hold it and cuddle it and stroke the pictures. NOT that I've done that or anything.... *coughs* This is awkward.... Oh, like YOU'VE never done it.

Worth every. damn. penny.

In the Shadows is a beautiful novel. Both stories are so alive and vibrant in their own unique way, and Kiersten and Jim clearly work well together as the prose and art blended together seamlessly, even though they take place in different times and places. I have enjoyed Kiersten and Jim's other work, but I really hope they consider working together in the future because combined, these two powerhouse storytellers are a winning duo!

All pictures featured in this review were reposted from Kiersten's blog with both authors' permission. Check out additional In the Shadows art samples on Jim's website here. Artwork copyright owned by Jim di Bartolo. Please do not reproduce or repost art without permission.

Book Links:

About the Author:
Kiersten White is the NYT bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy and the Mind Games series, as well as several standalone novels. She has one tall husband and three small children and lives near the ocean, where her life is perfectly normal. Visit her at

Author Links:

About the Author:
Jim Di Bartolo is a mixed media illustrator, a painter, and a visual storyteller. In his freelance career he has illustrated novels, comic books, and role-playing games. His upcoming collaborative novel with Kiersten White entitled IN THE SHADOWS will be released from Scholastic on April 29th, 2014. He and his wife, the author Laini Taylor, have also collaborated on several books, and their most recent joint-effort, Lips Touch: Three Times, was a National Book Award finalist. He lives in Portland, Oregon with Laini and their daughter and can be found online at Chances are, he should be getting more sleep.

Author Links:

 Up for grabs: an ARC of In the Shadows signed by Kiersten + a signed In the Shadows bookmark signed by both Kiersten and Jim. Open to US & Canada. Entrants must be 13+. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST October 21. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page.Good luck!

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  1. This sounds so good! I love historical fiction and Oooh! Lovely illustrations! :)

  2. Sadly I don't have a Bloglovin' account, and I much prefer visiting the site to subscribing by email. (And I love it when people visit my book blog in person!) But I'll do what I can because This. Book. Looks. Awesome!!! Honestly, I don't know why I haven't hunted it up at the library yet. I hope I win though!

  3. I love LOVE when books have illustrations with them like this, color and so expressive!! Combine that with Kiersten White's hilariousness and this book has the makings for being brilliant. Thank you for the review and giveaway!

  4. This is definitely one of the few books that I won't buy as an ebook. There have been one or two graphic novels that I've picked up lately that needed to be physical copies too. The art always is so much more...more in a real book!

  5. I absolutely love it when a book has illustrations. And to make it better, I love this illustrator!!! This book has been on my tbr list for forever. It sounds fabulous!

  6. Ah. The art looks gorgeous. This definitely looks like the kind of book that the physical copy would be best, like you said. I hadn't heard of this book before your post, but want to read it now!

  7. (This is Darith L.)

    The art are so beautiful! Would love to read it. :D

  8. I would love a physical copy of this for the art work alone. Its so creepy and pretty at the same time!

  9. Oh my gosh I want it! Look at the pictures, the synopsis, EVERYTHING and tell me you don't. (Actually, please tell me you don't; I want to win) Ahhhhhh I need to read this ASAP!!! Thank you so much for the giveaway!