Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Content warnings: discussions or depictions of violence, racism, sexism, gentrification, family values, appropriation, family values, heterosexual relationships, lesbian relationships, police brutality, respectability politics, anti-blackness, misogyny, colorism, racial identity, white apathy, ancestral memory, street harassment, slurs, ableism
This was my first book I read from this author. Like I’ve read the stuff he’s put up on his Wattpad account and follow his Twitter account and read the stuff he puts up on his website as well. So I knew going into this that I already liked his style of writing and I like his voice (both his speaking voice and his writing voice) as well as the things he says. Knowing all that going in, holy crap! I was still blown away by this book. THIS is a good example of what I mean when I say I want diverse books.
Once I started this, I did NOT want to stop reading it. And *HATED* having to put it down to do anything. I read it in once sitting essentially. With interruptions of having to deal with life things (unfortunately food is needed to survive so shopping was necessary). But like initially, the cover was what drew me in. It’s colourful. It’s GORGEOUS. It’s unapologetic. It not only fits the general theme of the book’s main character Sierra (especially her unapologetically being authentically herself which I *LOVED*) and the book itself but it sets the entire mood and theme of the book and helps you to really get into the book IMO. The cover photo was done by Michael Frost and the cover art and design was Christopher Stengel and they deserve so much appreciation and love for what they’ve helped to create for this book. Truly.
Nydia was one of my favourite characters and I want her to get her own library so badly in this series at some point. I loved Tee and Izzy as well. But I adored Nydia and Sierra the most. I also loved that there was no heroine hijacking in this book (where MC girl meets boy and suddenly the story is ALL about their love story and him instead of where it originally was going because that seriously irks me in books and is a huge thing in YA that happens). Sierra’s portrayal and her friendships felt real and authentic to me. Like they were people who I could run into were I to go out with the intention to meet people. I loved that her friends supported her but they weren’t guilted in the “if you don’t support everything I do then we’re not friends” way that some novels do. And that the ones who felt they couldn’t support this part by doing what everyone else was doing weren’t guilted into doing the thing. Yes some tried and it was stated that the characters felt bad that this person couldn’t be there for them to do this but they more or less understood and weren’t going to try and make them. Acknowledging the hurt and accepting it was an important thing to show since a lot of media especially geared at teens and female teens in particular like to focus on ignoring the fact that things like that can and will hurt and that it’s ok to tell a friend that you love and support them but can’t physically be there supporting them for this. We need more healthy depictions of friendships like that.
The acknowledgement of attraction to Robbie but not wanting to be too involved in him was also great. As was the discussion Sierra and Robbie had regarding his tattoos and his not fully knowing his heritage/ancestry.
One of my favourite quotes in the book comes from Sierra looking at herself in the mirror and giving herself her own pep talk.
Today she looked menacingly into the mirror and said: “I’m Sierra María Santiago. I am what I am. Enough.” She sighed. These days were spooky enough without her talking to herself. “More than enough.”
The last line especially. She is definitely more than enough. Everyone is. And I think that’s a quote that will resonate with people, especially teens. At least I hope it will.
I look forward to reading more in this series. It’s a great first book. There’s background, there’s action, there’s conflict, there’s resolution, there’s a solid ending that is both ambiguous enough to continue but enough to leave you satisfied and happy that it’s an end.
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