SHADOW HILLS (Shadow Hills #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Purchased as part of a blog tour through Teen Book Scene
Phe misses her sister Athena every moment of every day. Guilt weighs on her for not accompanying her sister to a party the night she died, if she had, perhaps her sister would still be alive. As a way to feel closer to the sister she lost, Phe enrolls at a boarding school on the East coast, one her sister felt she needed to attend to find the answers to the mysterious dreams she experienced before her passing. And so Phe leaves sunny Los Angeles and her family behind for Shadow Hills, Massachusetts.
Once at school, Phe realizes she's right where she needs to be. Places from the dreams she's been having, dreams just like Athena's, are located on and around campus, and Phe's determined to understand whatever it is the visions were trying to tell her sister and are trying to tell her now.
Even though she knew being from L.A. would make her an outsider, Phe didn't realize the full extent of her differences from the other students. They're freakishly intelligent. They can read at abnormally fast speeds. And when she's in close proximity with one student in particular, Zach, odd things always seem to happen. The town's surprisingly tragic history only adds to the number of questions piling up, and Phe soon finds herself in the middle of the unexplainable, nursing a crush on Zach and struggling to wade through the mystery the residents of Shadow Hills would kill to protect.
Much as the town after which it is named, this book is cloaked in darkness, guarded secrets permeating every aspect of the story in dense layers that allow only a few pinpricks of light representing concrete information to shine out, their luminescence guiding us through a world full of furtive glances, scientific anomalies, and increasingly unusual behavior. There's something eerie about Devenish Prep, something hidden beneath the crisp uniforms and expensive tuition, and luckily for us, we get to accompany Phe as her curiosity sometimes overwhelms her common sense and we are all delved into a situation from which there is no way to escape without being fundamentally altered by what we've learned. Questions lead not to answers, but rather to more questions, and for every step we take towards the light and knowledge, we find the darkness right on our heels, keeping parts of us constantly obscured by shadow and unsure of which direction to head to find sure footing and complete understanding.
Persephone has a good head on her shoulders – intelligent and strong in personality, and though she swoons and fawns over Zach in typical teenage-girl fashion, she isn't reduced to incoherent babbling or overwhelming silliness and angst. She is however afflicted with an extremely overdeveloped sense of inquisitiveness, often landing herself in situations that could have been easily avoided, but she has a good heart and the best of intentions, putting those for whom she cares most above her own safety. Phe is as special in Shadow Hills as Zach would be outside of it, and both bring separate but fascinating challenges to their relationship. From the brief moments of illumination we have regarding their individual histories and abilities, it's clear the attraction humming between the two of them is the easiest part of their connection, and underneath the initial doe eyes lies a set of challenges all the more daunting because we haven't the slightest idea as to the full extent of them. Phe and Zach are clearly in mile one of a marathon, finding their breath after the beginning sprint, but facing miles of pavement yet to pound.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the story is the somewhat believable explanation for the paranormal occurrences. Instead of expecting us to merely accept the existence of the supernatural, Ms. Hopcus provides a great deal of data to support the unusual nature of the people of Shadow Hills, making the events more interesting as a result of their potential plausibility. Though we are provided copious amounts of information, our actual knowledge isn't even in the realm of absolute, an array of potential outcomes laid out before us like a choose your own adventure novel, only we as readers are denied the ability to choose and remain instead only witnesses to Phe's decisions, left to follow as she dictates but partners in the journey just the same.
Shadow Hills is fairly typical with regard to the teenage relationship, but Ms. Hopcus has carved out a unique niche in the paranormal aspect of her world and filled it with tier after tier of unique possibilities supported by a solid base of main and secondary characters. Arriving at the end of this story is like being in a room with three white walls and one brightly painted – we've been given enough information to bring the story in this first installment to life, but we end up facing multiple blank canvases, our fingers just itching for access to next book and the pages that might bathe those walls of taunting potential in vibrant color.
GIVEAWAY: I have a signed Shadow Hills poster up for grabs for one lucky commenter. If you want to be entered in the giveaway, just leave an email address with your comment so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through Monday, December 13th. Good luck everyone!