Book: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Published June 2015 by Arthur Levine Books|392 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.
Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.
I really liked Shadowshaper! It’s really different than a lot of other books I’ve read, and I like that Caribbean myths are a really strong focus. I feel like any time you see a story that re-tells myths or mythology or legends, it tends to be Greek, maybe Egyptian or Indian, if you’re lucky- though if it’s not Greek, it’s probably going to be Egyptian or Indian.
Back to Shadowshaper. I really liked the Caribbean legends we see throughout the book, and that really makes the book stand out, in a good way. It really makes me want to read more about them, particularly the shadowshapers. I did feel a little confused at times, but I think it’s because I wasn’t paying a lot of attention during those parts, because I found myself having to re-read certain parts again because I felt like I missed something. There’s a lot going on, and it’s really action-packed, but there’s always something going on, and it made me want to keep reading to see what would happen next.
There is something about Shadowshaper that was very ordinary- we see Sierra living her life, and that was really refreshing, because it felt accessible, like I could see the people in Sierra’s neighborhood on any corner. It’s an especially nice contrast to art coming alive, and it’s also nice to see considering the genre. It was also nice to see that Shadowshaping was relatively normal, and that it wasn’t seen as something different or unusual. It would be really easy for Older to portray Sierra and her community as Other, and yet you see things some mild racism that Sierra experiences, and a comment from her aunt about her hair really add something to the book. Her community really comes to life, and it really felt like it was both a fantasy setting and a real place that was appreciated for being a completely awesome place.
I also really liked seeing Wick get what he deserved, and how protective Sierra is of her heritage, especially when someone tried to take it away from her. She is such an amazing character, and I loved her so, so much! I love that she’s happy with how she looks, and I love that she’s willing to stand up to people who try to tell her otherwise. I don’t throw out strong female character, but that phrase describes her very, very well.
4 stars. I didn’t love it, but I really, really liked it. If you’re looking for a YA urban fantasy that’s different, this is a great book to read. Actually, it’s a great book to read no matter what you’re looking for.