Book Review: The Shadows by Alex North

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 202...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it

TW: Death, violence, missing children

I had held off on pre-ordering The Shadows because I assumed it would be a Book of the Month pick for July. I had gotten The Whisper Man last year through BOTM, and it was such a slow burn but so damn haunting. And after reading the synopsis of The Shadows, marketed as being similar to Stephen King's It and my favorite show, Stranger Things.

Twenty-five years ago, creepy classmate Charlie Crabtee went from threatening remarks and haunting half-smiles to committing a heinous murder. Paul Adams remembers it too well. He also remembers that as soon as he could, he left home for college and never looks back. But his mother's not well, and it's time to return home. When he meets with his mother, she almost speaks in riddles - saying someone's in the woods and something's in the house. Paul's unnerved. There have been several copycat murders, and someone seems to be trying to scare Paul away. Twenty-five years ago, Charlie disappeared after murdering a classmate. Is he behind these new murders? Is he after Paul?

I'm notorious for reading books without really knowing what they're about. I read the synopsis briefly when the news of the book was first released, but once I started reading, all I could remember were the works it was compared to. I then found myself a bit disappointed as I found very few similarities between The Shadows and It/Stranger Things. There is a group of "friends," but they're not quite the type of outcast friends within those classic 80s tales that I love so much. Instead, it's a group of outcasts that don't even fit together, and the girl of the story isn't part of the group. But that's mostly the biggest similarity there.

Instead, as I was reading I realized that the story I was reading was actually incredibly familiar to me. It reminded me a lot of the Slenderman stabbing that happened several years ago. It's a story I've read about, watched documentaries about, and even watched the horror movie version of the tale. For those unfamiliar with Slenderman, he's an internet myth that basically came to life for many believers and had folks creating incredibly harmful acts in order to earn something that wasn't real. It's pretty creepy and enthralling true crime.

Once I was about halfway through the novel, I saw an article that mentioned the book was actually inspired by the infamous Slenderman stabbing event. So, while it was exciting that the pieces fit together so well, I also felt a little let down because of how familiar I was with the true story. I realize this is likely not the case for most readers, and I think learning about the true story after reading the book will make the book even more terrifying, even more creepy. However, because of how I knew the story before reading the book, it felt kind of like watching a movie before reading the book it was based on.

I read The Shadows in both a physical format and audiobook format (thanks to Netgalley), and that was the first time I've read a book across different formats like that. It actually really made the experience super cool and further engaging. I was able to listen to the book while doing chores or cooking, and could physically read before bed or whenever I actually had time to just sit down and do nothing. I loved the audiobook version and I thought the narrators did a fantastic job bringing the story to life (yikes!). It is narrated from both the perspective of Paul and also from a detective named Amanda who is investigating the copycat murders. I was actually surprised by Amanda's chapters, because I thought the book would be from a single perspective (Paul's), but the switched perspective format was done well and actually interweaved the storyline beautifully.

Story wise, everything felt virtually impossible to predict. I had an inkling of an idea about one thing that ended up to be right, but only because I noticed one little clue (or lack thereof), but everything else took a turn I absolutely didn't expect. I never saw any of it coming, and because of that, the book felt better than I imagined. However, I didn't find this book quite as chilling as The Whisper Man. There were parts of Whisper that virtually took my breath away because I was so uncomfortably afraid. I never felt that with Shadows, but I feel I was expected to - again, it may have been the familiarity of the Slenderman. I know I keep coming back to the story that inspired the book, but it was really obvious for me and truly impacted my experience reading this novel.

"Perhaps life was just a matter of doing what you thought was best at the time and then living with the consequences as best you could afterward." - The Shadows, Alex North

The Shadows was such an interesting experience for me because of my familiarity with the story that inspired the book. It impacted the way I read the book and my thoughts about it, for sure. Overall though, Shadows was a compelling, dark and twisty story. The writing was done well, much like The Whisper Man, and the twists were unforeseeable. Though a story set in realism, there are some fantastical parts to this book (though lucid dreaming is a very real thing, just maybe not in the way the characters experience it in the novel). North did a great job of interweaving the realism and the hints of fantasy to make a story that creepy and disturbing, while fully holding the reader's attention. I found The Shadows very reminiscent of C.J. Tudor's The Chalk Man, and think fans of Tudor would enjoy this book.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

You Might Also Like