by Daniel Jose Older
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015. 304 pages. Young Adult
All Sierra Santiago wants to do this summer is paint a mural on the side of an aging Brooklyn junklot, hang out with her friends, and listen to music. But when the junklot's murals start inexplicably fading from the walls, Sierra realizes something supernatural's about to go down in the neighborhood. Her stroke-addled Abuelo manages to grasp a moment of lucidity to mutter something about "shadowshapers" to her, but before Sierra can decipher his meaning, he slips back into oblivion.
Now, armed only with a single clue, Sierra must uncover the history of the shadowshapers before her ancestral power to animate art is stolen from her. Aided by a similarly-gifted Haitian boy and a colorful cast of friends, Sierra must battle the her way past a number of terrifying supernatural creatures and stop the evil professor trying to take her people's power for himself.
First of all, I must say I've never read anything quite like this book, much in part due to the novel's explosively creative magic system. I love how the shadowshapers' abilities are steeped in art! The plotting is tight, the characters vivid, believable, and unique--even better, there are a lot of people of color in this book. Sierra's a confident, body-positive heroine who's more focused on her artistic goals than on romance; and her developing relationship with fellow shadowshaper Robbie is built on friendship and mutual respect. It's a refreshing thing to see in a YA novel.
The increased focus on diversity in kidlit is beginning to yield some truly remarkable titles, and I'm glad Older's Shadowshaper is one of the titles leading the charge. Recommended for anyone, but a must-read for those who love urban fantasy.