Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older


While sitting through a boring class it’s fun to doodle or draw in my notebook and then imagine the little characters and waves that I sketched come to life and put on a little play for me. Now, as cool as that would be if it actually happened I would be a little freaked out if one day the murals around downtown began to weep or change while my doodles cowered in a corner of my notebooks. But I guess in Brooklyn, New York that’s the case and it’s up to Sierra to get to the bottom of this mystery. A mystery which answers a lot of questions but creates countless more.

So its modern day Brooklyn and school has just let out for the summer when Sierra is given the task to paint a mural all over an abandoned tower which obviously an artist would be happy to do. And in teenager fashion makes the mural a great dragon! Yet as Sierra works on her mural she notices another across the way begin to fade and weep so she goes to her Grandfather who has been speaking in tongues until this occasion when he instructs her to find someone and gives her a part of a poem. So Sierra finds this person a fellow artist named Robbie and he explains everything to her and just in the nick of time since they need to ban together in order to save the world! Which I won’t go into since that would be spoiling the book and that’s cruel. But what I will say is that the story is utterly captivating and on more than one occasion throws out a plot twist. Which was unexpected, but very appreciated.

Sierra Maria Santiago is what she is; enough. She’s casual with a touch of cute and is a freaking badass. She is an amazing narrator who takes everything in stride after tripping a few times, literally. But what I appreciated most about Sierra was a few unimportant scenes where she perfectly describes body image issues and how she interacts with her family and friends. I loved how Sierra went to or attempted to get help from adults which is something so seldom seen in novels and movies, especially when the adults in her life listened and did help her. Now on to Robbie! An inked up artist who isn’t really intimidating but is pretty quirky and absolutely the most loveable person in the book. He isn’t very smooth and has a track record for ditching his dates, but he is always well prepared to fight and draw. Robbie is essential to Sierra’s induction to shadow shaping and he teaches her most of what she knows as well as support Sierra as all the craziness catches up to her. Alright time for a few quick honorable mentions to Sierra’s other friends who were truly loyal and hilarious as they adventure together. And even for the friends who didn’t stick around, my hat goes to them for leaving and not forcing themselves into a situation they didn’t want to be in. Then there was Nadiya and Sierra’s godfather who were very present and amazing adults that every teenager should know.

Another thing worth mentioning is that most of the dialogue is in spanish and are a number of other things since most of the characters are Puerto Rican, Mexican or Black. I do not know spanish so I chose to keep a dictionary with me just in case I found a word that could have a deeper meaning say something more than the english equivalent. Although I didn’t find anything so that isn’t really necessary and most of the words are common phrases and many can be inferred if you know a latin rooted language like Portuguese or French.

Shadowshaper is the perfect read right now during this season of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos when everything is a little bit more creepy and the unreal is more real. The suspension is comparable to that of a Guillermo Del Toro horror movie and builds beautifully as the story progresses misleading the reader like the Winchester Mystery House. Overall a stunning read! I absolutely love the characters, setting and mixing of languages and cultures.