Book Review: SHADOWS

PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Shadows Review

Review: Shadows / Author: Ilsa J. Bick / Publisher: Quercus / Release Date: September 27th

Shadows is the second part of a YA trilogy dealing with the aftermath of a devastating electromagnetic pulse that destroys civilisation as we know it. No computers, little electricity, few cars, no Starburst iPhone app. Bummer. But wait, you haven't heard the worst part yet. Most adults in their prime have dropped dead, and the majority of teenagers have been transformed into flesh-eating psychos, referred to variously as the Changed or Chuckies. Well, as one of the characters points out, no one said the end of the world was going to be easy.

The first book, Ashes, was a blend of rugged outdoorsmanship and gun-toting action, softened with romance and spiced with moments of eyebrow-raising gore. This time round, the gore quotient is much higher – so high one suspects it will have school librarians seeing red. Having escaped from a culty enclave called Rule, 17-year-old Alex falls into the clutches of some Chuckies and spends much of the book as their prisoner. One of Rule's leading lights, Peter, is seized by mad militiamen who perform cruel and unusual experiments. Alex's pal Tom has some ill-fated adventures of his own.

It's bad news, and don't expect Grandma and Grandpa to help: they've probably been eaten. The cannibalistic teens lead around a bunch of oldsters on a rope as a walking larder. Bick doesn't stint when it comes to describing mealtimes: eyeballs are scooped out, intestines played with, bits of flayed skin are made into funny hats. It's the prose equivalent of those scenes in Romero movies where some poor schmuck is pulled apart and his innards spill across the screen. To be fair, most youngsters will probably take all this OAP-munching in their stride. However, there's bound to be more than a few angst-ridden kids for whom it represents a form of grisly wish-fulfilment.

But the weirdness doesn't stop there. The Chuckies' handsome ringleader, Wolf, chops a bit of Alex's arm off and swallows it down in front of her like a slice of Parma ham. Afterwards, Alex can't stop herself … she's drawn to him, somehow, he's so mesmerising, so dangerous, so devil may care in a wears-human-skin, eats-human-flesh kind of way.

You can't help thinking that Bick has seriously misjudged things. Sorry, but cannibals are never going to be as cool as vampires, because, while girls may be strangely intrigued by the thought of having their blood sucked in minute quantities, it's doubtful many of them secretly fantasise about becoming some teenage boy's personal all-you-can-eat buffet. And if you're the parent of a teen who's read this book and you catch them looming over you with some garlic butter, run, RUN!

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