Book Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0545591614
Source: Bought
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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.

Oh my goodness, this was so much fun!!!! I can’t remember the last time I read an urban fantasy that was this authentic in that it wasn’t following a bunch of white people in an urban setting. Maybe actually this is the first time. And it was glorious!

It was diverse in more ways than one, with a cast of characters with different races and sexual orientations. It was true to the reality that we live in, a real mirror and that was so awesome to see. I know that if I had this book when I was a kid, I would champion it so hard (and I mean be super annoying about it like I used to be – maybe still am – when it comes to things that I love)!

I loved how rich the characters were and how present their culture, their upbringing, their reality was because it’s not a footnote or something to checkoff a character list, it’s just as important as the story. Music, hair, skin tone, family expectations (dating, etc…), and other relatable POC cultural marks were so, so wonderful to see, especially since we so rarely see this in books. This book champions POC kids in the city and I love it.

This is the first novel by Daniel José Older that I’ve read (read it in two sittings, it’s easily a day read) and I cannot wait to read more from him. His writing is so much fun. This is such a fast paced and thrilling magical adventure and if you love ghosts and all things off kilter like me, you’re in for a real treat.

All of the characters are fun and relatable and really engaging. I love that it’s set in New York. Not Manhattan. The real New York. In this instance, it’s Brooklyn. I love that the setting really comes alive and incorporates not just the good like art and family in small communities but the bad as well, like street harassment and it does so seamlessly.

I love how action packed the story was as Sierra was thrown onto a supernatural roller coaster of a journey. I thought that Sierra and Robbie, who goes on the adventure with her, had great chemistry and that was also fun to follow. I loved how humorous the writing was at times as well. Really, everything about this book was simple great fun and I am so glad that I finally read this.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older is available today.