Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I guess I’m the odd woman out on this one, because for me, this read like a rough draft, with a lagging plot, poor characterization, and waaayyyyyyyyyyyyy too much telling.
If you struggle with unique worlds and need the kind of story where instead of being shown how the magic works, the characters endlessly tell you how it works and explain everything to you through lengthy dialogue (things they already have known for years but waited until that convenient moment to impart to others), then this might work for you.
It doesn’t work for me, because everything is too easy, and the telling is too boring and tedious. I’m smart, and so are others readers. Just show us your world. If it’s too complex to show it effectively, bit by bit, then the writing style needs work. Because in my opinion, worlds are rarely boring or broken. It’s just how they are presented to readers that either rises up or crashes and burns. This crashed and burned for me, but I think it had potential, had it gone through some additional edits and rewrites. This draft just wasn’t ready to print.
This has a very interesting concept, so I thought it would be a win. Instead, it has a slow pace for such a short book, and the story doesn’t even get decently started until about the midpoint. They could literally chop off the majority of the first half of the book, and the story would be significantly better, since it’s not until that point where things begin to get interesting.
Also, it’s one of those stories where instead of gaining magic, the characters just conveniently find out they have had it all along, at exactly the moment that is convenient to the plot (though in this case, it’s at moments when they can endlessly talk about it, instead of moments where they show the character rise up and use the ability). So expect a lot of endless talk that will bore you so much that you still won’t understand how the world works, as you were so bored that you tuned out half, or more, of every explanation.
Since this didn’t hold my attention, I had to rewind a lot. It’s just one of those where the cover is actually more intriguing and captivating than the story.
This gets a 1 star for storytelling ability, but I’m giving it a 2nd star for diversity. I agree we need diverse books, I just wish that we could clarify that statement with an adjective such as amazing, compelling, kickass, intense, suspenseful, gorgeous, well-written, unique, mind-blowing, etc. So, sure, we got the diversity here, but we still need (insert adjective) diverse books. And those are definitely out there, as I’ve read so many fantastic stories in the past few years that are full of diversity, but this just isn’t one of them. I couldn’t wait for it to end, and I would have quit it early on, if I hadn’t needed to complete it to help try to win a bet with a work friend.
And just for kicks, some truly incredible diverse YA books you should pick up immediately and read instead (if I didn’t label it, it’s probably contemporary):
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (fantasy)
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (historical)
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Girl Mans Up by ME Girard
OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Hadu
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (novel in verse/ slam poetry)
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (graphic novel)
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
The Lunar Chronicles by Marisssa Meyer (Sci-Fi)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee (historical)
American Street by Izi Zoboi
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Hann
Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sarah Farizan
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (fantasy)
History is All You Left me by Adam Silvera
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugho (fantasy)
Aristotle and Danta Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Warcross by Marie Lu (sci-fi)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Fat Angie by EE Charlton-Trujillo (novel in verse)
Every Day by David Levithan
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (combo of urban fantasy and contemporary)
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
Beast by Brie Spangler (retelling)
Okay, I could go on forever about diversity in YA books, but I think this is probably enough to get you started. 😉
Book 183 read in 2018