17 August 2015

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

I've never before gotten to the end of a book and said to myself, "This book was badass." Until now.

Daniel José Older's SHADOWSHAPER was freaking badass.

SHADOWSHAPER tells the story of Sierra, a Puerto Rican girl living in Brooklyn who works on murals in her spare time and has found that boys always stop being interesting to her as soon as they open their mouths. And she's a little self-conscious of her body and her hair but mostly she's cool with who she is and where she's at in life.

That is, until she gets thrown into the world of shadowshaping: the ability to communicate with and empower the spirits lingering in Brooklyn by creating art that the spirits can inhabit.

Sierra finds out her own role in the shadowshapers' legacy, even as she has to contend with a villain trying to destroy it. With the help of her friends, her brother, and Robbie, a Haitian boy with a shadowshaping legacy of his own, Sierra tries to outwit, outfight, and outspirit her foe.

I mean...seriously. This book was just awesome.

It had a brilliant cast of characters. Sierra was so enjoyable to read, so vividly drawn, so different from the typical protagonist and so freaking real.

Her gang of friends and her family were spot-on, layered, and had their own nuances.

And Brooklyn was presented in all its contradictory glories: the mix of old and new, of gentrification versus tradition, of wealth and poverty. Brooklyn burst with life (and death!).

I really freaking loved SHADOWSHAPER. The ending was perfect. It really felt like Sierra's story could go on—but there was no messy cliffhanger to annoy me. Instead, I felt really good at the end, and hopeful that I will get to see Sierra and company again.

Also: wow! Diversity in YA is kind of a big thing right now. But it's been a while since I read something that got things as right as SHADOWSHAPER did. The cast was full of diversity, but not to fill some quota: these were real people, with lots of facets, and the story was so strong because of it.