So I usually dislike YA. I often find that the YA common choices in how they speak to the YA audience in most aspects rubs me wrong. Everything from 1st person perspective to the common mechanism of capturing young people's voice by older authors all bother me. It's like an itch I have when I'm reading YA.
I'm happy to report that there's none of that in Shadowshaper.
Older continues his trend of great fantasy work from the Bone Street Rumba series in this YA addition to the same universe. Though the story operates in its own new fantastic elements, its the familiar treatment of seriousness for both the characters he creates and the spiritual world they inhabit that links this book with Older's previous novels.
That is what I love about this book. At no point and in no way does Older ever relax in his portrayl of a real world. Of characters that react with honesty and earnestness to the fantastic and mundane trials that they wade through. And that's a tough thing given all the different places and families and roles that the main character is put through. It's a story that moves through a tight but large family, out into the extended family of the neighborhood and friends, through the streets of the neighborhood and out into the larger world. A world that's suddenly encroaching into all of those places that the MC hold's dear.
And the sense of realness through the whole thing is maintained into something that goes beyond worldbuilding. It's that rare kind of book with a living breathing setting that is just as alive as the characters. And character sing. Sometimes literally. But they are complicated and deep and multi-dimensional in ways that are so rare in the stuff I've been reading. (Which is of course about me and not the books). Even side characters are serving triple duty in the weaving themes of intersectionality, loss of memory, loss of community, the decay of "urban removal", and the strength of family
So yeah, I gush. I love this book. Read it now. Shadowshaper receives five stars out of five.