True love takes a twisted turn in the second book of this modern gothic romance trilogy that channels the dark brilliance of Edgar Allan Poe.
While Varen remains a prisoner in a perilous dream world where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life, Isobel travels to Baltimore to confront the dark figure known throughout the world as the Poe Toaster. This man, the same man who once appeared to Isobel in her dreams and abandoned her in Varen’s nightmare world, holds the key to saving Varen.
But when Isobel discovers a way to return to this dream world, she finds herself swept up in a realm that not only holds remnants of Edgar Allan Poe’s presence, but one that has taken on the characteristics of Varen’s innermost self. It is a dark world of fear, terror, and anger.
When Isobel once more encounters Varen, she finds him changed. And now Isobel must face a new adversary—one who also happens to be her greatest love.
Reading Group Guide
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The information, activities, and discussion questions that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Enshadowed. Please feel free to adapt these materials to suit your needs and interests.
1. The novel’s prologue describes Poe’s final hours. What images and emotions from the prologue are reflected in Isobel’s state of mind in the opening chapters of the novel? What are the states of Isobel’s family relationships and school friendships as the story begins?
2. Describe Isobel’s chapter one encounter with Varen. What images and ideas presented in this first chapter foreshadow the entire story to come? After having finished reading the novel, reread chapter one and explain what elements of the ending are actually revealed to the reader in these early pages.
3. Isobel recalls previous meetings with the dream character “Reynolds,” who at various times acted as both ally and enemy. What special identity does she believe Reynolds is concealing? How does she hope this identity can help lead her to Varen?
4. Why does Isobel hesitate to tell Gwen the whole story of what happened on Halloween? What does Gwen help Isobel discover about Lilith? Do you think Isobel would have ever made it to Poe’s Baltimore gravesite without Gwen? Why or why not?
5. “Reality. The thought of that word caused [Isobel] to utter a short, sharp laugh because, by now, it had begun to lose its meaning.” How has reality begun to lose its meaning? What does reality mean to you? Have you ever had an experience where you felt like Isobel? Describe the experience and how, if at all, it has affected your understanding of the concept of reality.
6. In Chapter 17, after her encounter with ex-boyfriend Brad, Isobel tries to connect with Varen, saying “You know that’s not who I am anymore. Don’t you?” Who has Isobel become? Explain why this chapter is so aptly titled, “Inversion.”
7. Who are Pinfeathers and Scrimshaw? Are Nocs friends or foe, good or evil, or something else entirely? Could you argue that, in form and behavior, Nocs represent various types of ambiguity, both ethical and psychological? Explain your answer.
8. What roles do time and timepieces play in the novel? How do they help Isobel realize whether or not she is in a dream state? What other strategies does Isobel use to prove to herself that she is awake (or discover that she is not)? What does this tell readers about Isobel?
9. From the powerful Lilith to the mourned Virginia (Poe’s wife), women represent power, inspiration, and other critical concepts explored in the novel. Name at least three more women who play key roles in the novel. How might you describe what they represent from a thematic perspective?
10. Throughout the novel, do you think Isobel endangers herself with her unwillingness to tell anyone what is happening to her emotionally? Why or why not? If you were Gwen, what advice might you give to Isobel about her secret-keeping tendencies?
11. In Chapter 26, Isobel finally reveals some of her thoughts to Gwen, only to discover that Gwen is asleep. “But that was okay . . . More than anything, it felt as if she’d been delivering a final speech . . . for the girl she’d once been but could never again resurrect, the girl her father had been so afraid of losing and had lost anyway.” How might this passage describe not only Isobel’s situation but Varen’s, Reynolds’, and even other characters? Could you read Enshadowed as a story about a threshold that is crossed on the journey from childhood to adulthood, explored on a paranormal level? Explain your answer.
12. In Chapter 33, “Mad Trist,” what does Reynolds think Isobel “doesn’t understand”? What conclusions has Isobel reached about Reynolds that make her decide to run toward Varen despite his warnings?
13. Where is Isobel at the end of the novel? Do you think Varen was trying to harm or save her during their encounter on the final pages? How do you think Isobel would define reality on the novel’s final page? What do you think is the “everything” she remembers?
14. Where is Varen at the end of the novel? Do you believe he and Isobel will ever reunite? If so, on what terms and in what world? What might you name the third installment of the Nevermore series?
Writing and Research Activities
1. Research the literary term “gothic novel.” Create an informational poster describing the main elements of gothic novels. Or make a stack of at least six index cards, each featuring the name, biographical information, and notable works of an author of gothic novels, such as Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, or Bram Stoker.
2. Use information from your research in activity one (above) to create a PowerPoint or other type of classroom presentation explaining how Enshadowed can be read as a contemporary gothic novel in terms of main characters, supernatural elements, and settings.
3. While Creagh’s first novel about Isobel and Varen, Nevermore, draws heavily on imagery from Poe’s poem, “The Raven,” Enshadowed is inspired by his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Read this story and write a short essay in which you explain at least three themes or images from the Poe story employed in Creagh’s novel.
4. Isobel recalls her first vision of Reynolds (through a mirror) and Brad’s insight that reflections are “how they find you.” Look at your reflection in a mirror for five minutes (set a timer). What do you see? What thoughts float through your mind? What do you find? Write song lyrics or a poem describing your observations or feelings about this exercise.
5. In the Greek myth of Narcissus, the fairy tale “Snow White,” and many other works of film and literature, mirrors are a key thematic and/or plot element. With friends or classmates, brainstorm a list of books and movies featuring mirrors. Select one or more favorites from the list to review as a critic, and include references to the mirror element.
6. Select a single object that relates to the novel, such as a flower or clock. Fold a sheet of sketch paper in half vertically or horizontally, to create a dividing line. Using pencils or oil pastels, create an artwork showing the image in a “real” and “dream” world by varying the background elements, color choices, and even your representation of the object itself. If desired, create a display of Dual World Artworks by combining your piece with pictures created by friends or classmates.
7. From Lilith to Reynolds, from Pinfeathers to Scrimshaw, Creagh names her characters with reference to history, mythology, and aspects of nature. Make a list of character names and images that pique your curiosity. Research the words on your list at the library or online. Create an annotated guide to characters and objects in Enshadowed, describing their names’ historical and literary significance as well as their roles in the novel. Include page citations for critical passages where the key names are mentioned.
8. Over the course of the novel, Isobel explores the difference between “real” and “reality.” Write a journal entry from the point of view of Isobel, Varen, or Reynolds, in which you clarify this distinction.
9. Author Kelly Creagh is fascinated by the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe. If you had to choose one author whose books have had the most influence on you, what author would you choose and why? What do you consider his or her best or most intriguing work? What kind of story might your chosen author inspire you to write? Answer these questions in a short essay.
Guide written by Stasia Kehoe
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Kelly Creagh is a 2008 graduate of Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. When not writing, haunting bookstore coffee shops, or obsessively studying Poe, Kelly’s passions include the ancient art of bellydance. She lives with her squirrely, attitude-infused dogs—Annabel, Jack, and Holly—in the heart of Old Louisville, Kentucky’s largest and spookiest Victorian neighborhood. Kelly is the author of the Nevermore trilogy. Visit her at KellyCreagh.com.
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2013)