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Publisher's Summary

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her strokeridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one, and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

©2015 Daniel José Older (P)2015 Scholastic Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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A Vivid Tale for Many Interests

To understand our viewpoint. We are a couple, married fifty years in the Pacific Northwest with no knowledge of modern Hispanic teen culture in New York City. So we were doubtful about getting into this young adult fiction fantasy.

We loved it! The writing painted vivid pictures. The girl, Sierra, is a wonderfully complex teen. She is spunky, standing up to anyone. But, inside, she is not sure of herself, not fearless, not always right.

The fantasy is built on a unique (to us) concept of "life after after death." The characters are all fully believable. The events include danger, mystery, fear, romance, doubt, discovery, bravery, loyalty and the best kind of justice.

So, we both recommend the book to mature preteens, teens, adults, and old folk, to any who like books with the kinds of events and elements described.

The reader is outstanding! The range of voices is beyond criticism. And, the reading never draws attention away from the enthralling tale.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful Urban Fantasy

Daniel José Older knows how to craft a magnificent fantasy world, and "Shadowshaper" is an excellent example of that. Sierra is an endearing protagonist, both brave and uncertain, not fully understanding what's going on, but knowing she has to figure it out and protect those she cares about. The magic of shadowshaping is unique and interesting - I loved its basis in connection to spirits. I appreciate Older's ability to center a book around young people, but not have it feel juvenile.

Anika Noni Rose does a fantastic job bringing Older's words to life. My one complaint is that some I mostly listen on my commutes, there were a few points where she gets quiet (intentionally, to convey whispering) that were difficult to hear over car noise. Otherwise I enjoyed everything about this recording and would unequivocally recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fantasy with an Afro-Latinx heroine

If you could sum up Shadowshaper in three words, what would they be?

Okay so I read this last year, and I had trouble coming up with what I wanted to say about this book.

First off, as a fantasy fan who also isn't the least bit ashamed to admit I'm a "hood" geek, it was refreshing to finally see kids that sounded like me, especially when I was a teen, celebrated in such a mainstream book. It reminded me that not only suburban kids get to be heroes in speculative fiction, and this is NOTHING against middle/upper class folks, but poor black/latinx kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds don't get a ton of opportunities like this.

That alone should have made me give it a 5. A lot of times I felt like the story was 5-worthy. I still do. But there were just things that had me in my feelings that ultimately forced me to give it a 4 star.

Shadowshaper featured an Afro-Latinx heroine of Puerto Rican descent(possibly half African-American as well, judging based on the voice changes when different sides of her family spoke since it was an audiobook) who had the ability to speak to spirits based on the murals she brought to life.

That aspect was amazing, especially since I grew up in a lower socio-economic area, and sometimes the most interesting part was the street art. I know its vandalism in essence, but mural art is one of the many ways poor kids express themselves artistically. It could've also been because it was set in NY, but it made it seem that much more magical.

Sierra, the MC, learned a lot about herself upon learning she was a shadowshaper, a role no man in her family seemed to respect despite the history of Shadowshapers. There were many instances that exposed toxic masculinity, including her love interest--a Haitian-Am boy who who was a soft boy versus the latter of stereotypical black masculinity.

The story served as a conduit for discussing colorism among latinx communities, something we apparently feel compelled to ignore, which hurts people like me, an Afro-Latinx person the most.

It was refreshing to also see a lot of different cultures represented, showing Black people aren't a monolith. This is the New York most people know, but it's not represented enough.

Even with all those amazing points, I admit my own bias makes it hard to ignore what bothered me. Sierra, while Afro-Latinx, wasn't dark skinned. Or rather, she was considered dark for a Puerto Rican girl, but there were so many instances that always struck a nerve that I'm uncomfortable sharing because I know it'll be read as me complaining.

There was no question Sierra was Black. I'm not questioning how Black she was, because as an Afro-Cuban woman, it bugs the hell out of me that I still get asked "You're latina?" But there were just so many instances that kept reminding me Sierra didn't look like me, not that she had to mirror me exactly. But even with her narrative being amazing, I just had to realize this wasn't my story as an Afro-Latinx person.

I'll unpack examples because I'm sure this sounds confusing, but I'm not ashamed to admit I'm very dark. I never get mistaken for latinx, and while I'll admit there are women darker than me who NEVER get represented, I'm the most phenotypically Black a Black person can get, and being Cuban American doesn't change that.

Sierra made several references to her skin tone, and as a Black person, she'd have privilege among other Black folk in Latinx communities. Her hair was thick and curly, but by description, I didn't feel my hair texture was being described because of how her hair was handled and discussed on the page. She described her skin color as a cup of coffee with no enough cream, and it struck a nerve because I'm coffee without the cream. For the a large part of my life, I'd always been someone's definition of a dark person "She's dark...you know? Like the twins" (I'm a twin y'all we don't have names, it's just twin when you grow up with folx).

When Sierra collapsed in the suburbs, all the people from that area referred to her as "That Spanish girl" which no one would ever use to describe me despite being just as latina as her.

I did also assume she was latinx on both sides, but based on the way the voices were performed for her maternal side versus her paternal. there were a lot of hints she was half African-American, which is totally ok and still makes you Afro-Latinx. I just so bad wanted both her parents to be Black-Latinx folx because so many people are confused by Afro-Latinx identity, and almost always I've had to explain both my parents are Black.

While I loved her and her love interest, they reminded me of the typical brown skinned girl, dark skinned guy, the only couple celebrated among Black love communities. Girls can't be too dark, but guys are allowed to be dark, attractive and exist. Just be. So it's only my personal feelings that made me feel like this wasn't my story.

But while it's not MY Afro-Latinx story, it's SOMEONE'S Afro-Latinx experience. I say this humbly, because I really want all Afro-Latinx folx to be represented, not just ones that look like me, and Sierra will definitely make a lot of Black Latinx girls feel like their existence is important, especially since she saves the day like never before. But I just have to wait my turn, I guess. I've been waiting 31 years to see me, reflected on the page. I just have to wait a little bit longer I guess, which really sucks, but this is a really good start in the right direction.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Poetic and Action Packed

Strong heroine, magic, friendship, family, and culture? What more could I ask for?

This book was well written and beautifully read. Anika Noni Rose was perfection. Each character had individuality in the writing and reading. Each voice was unique to the character. So good. Can't wait to buy more books from DJ Older.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fun story with complex issues as a backdrop

What made the experience of listening to Shadowshaper the most enjoyable?

The narrator is excellent, and I loved listening to her speak Spanish (my pronunciations would have been way off).

Which scene was your favorite?

When Sierra's godfather helped her sneak into Columbia University's library. Her godfather is hilarious, and we meet one of my favorite characters, the librarian in the anthropology archives.

Any additional comments?

I loved the way issues like gentrification, cultural appropriation, racism, sexism and the importance of community informed the story (but didn't overshadow the action or the characters).

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Rahnea
  • Brampton, ON, Canada
  • 11-06-15

beautifulllllllll!

I loved this book its a true coming into ones self story. i recommend ro anyone who needs a short good tead. action , romance, pre t to teennss, fantacy , magic alll rolled into one!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The book we've been waiting for

More than a well-written urban young adult fantasy novel, this book communicates deep truths about interdependence, ancestors, creativity, family, and the evil committed with a colonizing mindset.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A fantastical story of heritage and art

I absolutely loved this book. The perspective character is immediately relatable, despite she and I having almost nothing in common. At the start of the summer after her junior year, Sierra is painting a mural on a new tower in her neighborhood, encouraged by her grandfather's old domino buddies. She quickly finds herself getting inducted into an old family tradition called Shadowshaping which allows her to quite literally bring art to life by imbuing songs, paintings, murals, oral stories, and even chalk sketches with the spirits of her ancestors.


But, the more she learns about her colorful family ability, the more she finds herself in a dangerous new world where she's often forced to figure out her new powers to help not only herself, but her best friends, her brother, her new shadowshaper pal and mentor Robbie, her mother who will not talk to Sierra about the family legacy, and her stroke-bound grandfather, who had more secrets and stories than Sierra would have ever believed before.

Everything here is outstanding, from the world building, to the focus on the importance of arts and heritage, to the performance of the book itself by a very talented and enthusiastic narrator. This is one of those rare books that gets everything right. Don't miss this book!

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Meh

cool story, but the immense use of the "hard" accents was annoying. didn't really like any of the characters. still pretty fun though.

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absolutely fantastic!!!!

My son and I adored this incredible book!!!! highly recommend...it brought us into a rich world that we felt honored to witness.

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