BOOK REPORT for The Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer

Cover Story: Two Big Faces; No Waiting

BFF Charm: Nope

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Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Talky Talk: Dan Brownisms

Bonus Factor: Dolly the Sheep

Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Science; Too Much Plot On Our Hands

Relationship Status: It’s Not Me; It’s You

Shadow girl

Cover Story: Two Big Faces; No Waiting

As dedicated followers of Forever Young Adult are aware, we have a real problem with the Big Face phenomenon which is ceaselessly plaguing Young Adult covers these days. And that problem is that those covers are ugly. They’re just ugly, y’all. I don’t need to see anyone’s big face on the cover of a book!  I have my own face and it’s quite large, really. So why do I need to carry around someone else’s face on the cover of a book? It’s a senseless tragedy from which the Nation of YA may never recover. 

And in this case, one of those faces (Iris, our titular Shadow Girl) doesn’t even have the correct haircut. Sheesh! A little accuracy in publishing, please?

The Deal:

For as long as Lily can remember, Iris has lived beside her. At first, a young Lily thinks that Iris is the shadow cast on the ground, but as she ages she realizes that Iris is both more and less—she’s an ephemeral whisper in her ear, a quiet hum below her nerves, a glimpse from the corner of her eye. Iris is a constant friend, but when Lily’s father dies suddenly on Lily’s 17th birthday, Iris becomes agitated and insistent. Lily’s mom is hiding something and Iris really wants to know what it is.

BFF Charm: Nope

BFF No

Lord almighty, Lily is dumb. Well, no; she seems like a bright enough girl, which is why it is so very frustrating to witness her slow plodding towards the truth. This is a book in which the twist (if one can even call it that) is so clearly telegraphed from the first chapter that the reader is just going to grow angry that it’s taking Lily so long to figure it out. Lily, why can’t you put two and two together, kiddo?

But beyond just being extremely slow to the uptake, I just never felt as if I could connect to Lily. She’s motivated to leave her small town and go to college at the terrible University of Oklahoma, yet I never had the sense that she had any driving need to leave or even do anything. Watching her self-discovery was a bit like watching paint dry; I knew that she’d end up serviceable and complete, but in the mean time I just worried she was drying lighter than I would have liked.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Oh, great, another trumped up love triangle with which to waste 50% of our time! Lily finds herself instantly attracted to Ty Collier, the new, mysterious boy in town who seems to know more about Lily’s past than she knows herself. And even though Ty is QUITE CLEARLY hiding something from Lily, she still can’t keep her tongue out of his mouth.

But, oh! What about her lifelong best friend, Wyatt, whom she kisses in a sort of trance as Iris takes over? What will happen to their changing relationship? I’m actually legitimately asking, because I was so bored by their relationship that I involuntarily slipped into a coma for most of it.

Talky Talk: Dan Brownisms

Archer’s prose is fairly straightforward and doesn’t rely overly much on flowery language, which I think is admirable. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t continue to check the cover to ensure that I wasn’t actually reading a Dan Brown novel by accident. All of the mysteries were developed in Brown’s plodding and insufferable way of “present evidence; now lecture on same” and I just do not have much tolerance for that narrative style.

Bonus Factor: Dolly the Sheep

Dolly

Oh, hey, have you guessed the twist yet? Because that makes you one bazillion times smarter than Lily. 

But, you know; I enjoy cloning! I don’t really have any moral or ethical problems with human cloning, mostly because I don’t have many morals or ethics. In fact, I welcome our new cloned overlords.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Science

CSI

Y’all, I just cannot tolerate bad science in fiction (bad science fiction, however, is a constant delight). If a writer is going to base their entire plot on one or several elements of science, they have a duty to make sure that science is right. Obviously an author doesn’t have to actually be a scientist, but it drives me absolutely crazy when science is gleefully and willfully ignored just to make a plot point. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Too Much Plot on Our Hands

styx

If I live by any adage, it’s “find one thing and do it well.” To be fair, I haven’t yet found whatever that one thing is, but you know, any day now I imagine I’ll become a productive human being.

This book desperately needed to find its one thing and do it much, much better. So many elements existed in this book—love triangles! Human cloning! Secret existence! Hidden talents! Weird metaphysical relationship with the violin!—and, as a result, none of those elements were given their due.

Casting Call

Honestly, I found Lily so bland that it’s a struggle to think of anyone who could capture that. So, instead, I’ll reach for an old standby and hope she could interject some life into poor, dumb Lily.

Troain

Troian Bellisario as Lily

Relationship Status: It’s Not Me; It’s You

Listen, book; we both gave it our best. Unfortunately, your best made me want to rip out my hair in frustration. If only you could have ramped up the mystery or dialed down the love triangle; we might have had a chance. But, as it is, book, we’re going our separate ways, and none too soon for me.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received this free review copy from Harper Teen. The Shadow Girl will be available in stores on April 9, 2013.