Shadowshaper/ posted in: Reading Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
on June 30, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
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Set in New York
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 "Lo siento" 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 is an amazing artist. She has been asked to paint a mural on an abandoned building in her neighborhood. There is a lot of street art around her but lately she’s been noticing that they are starting to fade. Then one day she sees a mural change in front of her and start to weep.
Her grandfather had a stroke soon after her grandmother died but now he is agitated and wants Sierra to know that he is sorry for… something. Her mother seems to know what he means but shuts Sierra down every time she asks. Some of her grandfather’s friends point her towards another artist at her school for answers before they start to disappear themselves.
The writing in this book was amazing. Contemporary Brooklyn is a character as much as a setting of this book. Older shows the joys of living in this neighborhood with dance clubs and vibrant art as well as the problems of street harassment of teenage girls and the specter of police brutality. I’ve never been impressed by New York City at all but this book almost made me feel like it would be an interesting place to be. Seriously, salsa thrash metal? Yes, please.
The cast of characters was inclusive without it coming across as forced for the sake of inclusiveness. There is a lesbian couple. Most of the cast are Latina(o). There are both male and female characters who are important parts of the story and the significant secondary characters range in age from teenagers to elderly.
There are discussions about racism in the community. Sierra remembers a time when she surprised herself by apologizing for her dark skin. Her aunt is tells her that she shouldn’t date a Haitian because you don’t want a boyfriend whose skin is darker than the bottom of your foot.
If this was a contemporary novel it would be nearly 5 stars. But, this is a fantasy story and that aspect was not as strong for me. The idea of being able to make your art come alive when necessary is good but the stakes of the conflict never felt high. It felt like something bad was going to happen but it wasn’t clear what that was supposed to be.
If you like the idea of art featuring in urban YA fantasy you can also check out these titles.
“The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”
“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.”
Truthfully, this one was a little too “He’s SO DREAMY!!!!!” with no actual explanation of why so I DNFed it.
I received this book as a gift from my OTSP Secret Sister as part of my Easter box. The cover is gorgeous. I’m going to read more by this author because I love his writing.