I feel this story hit me out of nowhere. I was not prepared for the world I was pulled into. I don’t remember hearing a lot of hype or any talk of this before I borrowed it from my library. I was absolutely blown away by the tale Older weaved. Before I knew it, it had a hold on me that still will not let go.
Short recap: Sierra Santiago is a street artist, meaning she paints street murals. One day she swears she sees a mural move, a mural of a deceased neighborhood man. Anxious to find out what is going on, she tries to ask her grandfather for guidance. All Sierra is able to understand is the word “Shadowshaper”. What does this mean?
This was a solid and very well developed story. It is not a “message fiction”, whatever that might mean. This was a great story about a confident teen girl who discovers that she is more than she knew possible. That is how this story should be remembered. Family values, staying true to yourself, friendship, and hard work – those are the items represented in this story.
The protagonist, Sierra, was just damn good. I loved reading about her character’s story, growth, hardships, and accomplishments. She hasn’t had the easiest upbringing but she was raised right. She has a gift for painting murals throughout her city. Things start to change after she meets the new cute boy, Robbie. They quickly discover they have an awful lot in common other than art. Robbie admits that he knows what the Shadowshapers are when Sierra is just learning about them. Together they both set off to discover just what is going on and learn they are tied to something bigger than themselves. These two characters just worked so well together that it felt real and natural… almost organic. The way the characters were portrayed was refreshing. Sierra was a POC teen in a white-dominated society. She experiences some mild racism, but it was still addressed in a positive way. The worst coming from Sierra’s own aunt. I adored how Sierra stood up to her aunt and let her know exactly how the unwanted comments on body image, “natural hair”, and skin color were unwelcomed and racist. I wanted to high five Sierra for standing up for herself! Scenes like that don’t happen often enough.
The actual story itself blew my mind. I’m not one for magical realism and thankfully this did not feel like one of those stories. This felt like a wonderfully light fantasy story, if that makes sense. There was just enough fantasy and magic to make it an outstanding adventure. It was fast paced, action packed, and full of twists and turns. There is a touch of romance sprinkled in but it did not take center stage. Older still focused the story on family values, which I appreciated.
This is the first book in a new series by Older and it was brilliantly done. I loved everything about this story and cannot wait to start the second book.