Publishing Date: January 2013
Genre: young adult, gothic, mystery
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
Mackenzie Bishop does the best she can to hang on to her dead brother’s memory while her family aches and attempts to move on. When her family rebuilds life in the Coronado, an old hotel-turned-apartment building, history begins to haunt her — literally. She is a Keeper, responsible for the lost souls trapped between life and death. It is her job to find them and send them back to peaceful rest. But as more and more Histories appear, and one History seems unable to listen to her demands to leave, Mac begins to unravel a decades-long mystery that could lead to an answer as to why the Archive seems to be crumbling to pieces.
Haunting, eerie, and filled with rich language and deep emotion, this book is a must-have for any reader interested in Victorian literature and Young Adult literature. It has the perfect combination of the slow-building and mysterious plot trademarked in Victorian literature, mixed with the first-person, raw emotions, and teenage heroes of today’s YA genre.
Schwab’s concept of a library archive as a place for the dead was incredibly believable and deeply fascinating. The bodies lie in drawers, and are records of that particular person’s memories and experiences. Librarians take care of them, and make sure they stay “asleep” and are left undisturbed. When awakened, these Histories escape into the Narrows, dark and eerie, maze-like hallways between the Archive and the Outer, or our world. It is the Keeper’s responsibility of that section of Narrows to find the History and return them. If a History escapes into the Outer, Crew is called upon to fight and work them back into the Archive.
When Mackenzie moves into the Coronado and meets Wes, a charming and funny character that I ached to see more of, she begins to realize that the older and more haunted a place, the busier her work load. But she has to hide all of her work from her parents, who grieve for their lost son. Mac’s struggles with awakening her brother or not plague her thoughts, and Wes does the best he can to keep her from dwelling in the past. Schwab does an excellent job of making Wes a likable character. One would think all of the self-confidence could be turned into arrogance, but Wes is nothing like that.
The flashbacks with Mac’s grandfather, Da, were appropriately placed as well. It allows for the reader to experience the new world and new rules without Mac’s first person to stop and explain. The flashbacks take the reader to a time when Da was explaining the Archive to her for the first time. It also shows her strong bond with her grandfather, and her desire to do good by him and make him proud.
This would be one of those books that I would have to say, “Read it to believe it.” The slow pace and suspenseful plot fits wonderfully with this sort of tale.