Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review + Poster Giveaway: Shadow Hills

SHADOW HILLS (Shadow Hills #1)
Anastasia Hopcus
Paranormal Young Adult
400 pages
Egmont USA
Available Now
Purchased as part of a blog tour through Teen Book Scene

Phe misses her sister Athena every moment of every day. Guilt weighs on her for not accompanying her sister to a party the night she died, if she had, perhaps her sister would still be alive. As a way to feel closer to the sister she lost, Phe enrolls at a boarding school on the East coast, one her sister felt she needed to attend to find the answers to the mysterious dreams she experienced before her passing. And so Phe leaves sunny Los Angeles and her family behind for Shadow Hills, Massachusetts.

Once at school, Phe realizes she's right where she needs to be. Places from the dreams she's been having, dreams just like Athena's, are located on and around campus, and Phe's determined to understand whatever it is the visions were trying to tell her sister and are trying to tell her now.

Even though she knew being from L.A. would make her an outsider, Phe didn't realize the full extent of her differences from the other students. They're freakishly intelligent. They can read at abnormally fast speeds. And when she's in close proximity with one student in particular, Zach, odd things always seem to happen. The town's surprisingly tragic history only adds to the number of questions piling up, and Phe soon finds herself in the middle of the unexplainable, nursing a crush on Zach and struggling to wade through the mystery the residents of Shadow Hills would kill to protect.

Much as the town after which it is named, this book is cloaked in darkness, guarded secrets permeating every aspect of the story in dense layers that allow only a few pinpricks of light representing concrete information to shine out, their luminescence guiding us through a world full of furtive glances, scientific anomalies, and increasingly unusual behavior. There's something eerie about Devenish Prep, something hidden beneath the crisp uniforms and expensive tuition, and luckily for us, we get to accompany Phe as her curiosity sometimes overwhelms her common sense and we are all delved into a situation from which there is no way to escape without being fundamentally altered by what we've learned. Questions lead not to answers, but rather to more questions, and for every step we take towards the light and knowledge, we find the darkness right on our heels, keeping parts of us constantly obscured by shadow and unsure of which direction to head to find sure footing and complete understanding.

Persephone has a good head on her shoulders – intelligent and strong in personality, and though she swoons and fawns over Zach in typical teenage-girl fashion, she isn't reduced to incoherent babbling or overwhelming silliness and angst. She is however afflicted with an extremely overdeveloped sense of inquisitiveness, often landing herself in situations that could have been easily avoided, but she has a good heart and the best of intentions, putting those for whom she cares most above her own safety. Phe is as special in Shadow Hills as Zach would be outside of it, and both bring separate but fascinating challenges to their relationship. From the brief moments of illumination we have regarding their individual histories and abilities, it's clear the attraction humming between the two of them is the easiest part of their connection, and underneath the initial doe eyes lies a set of challenges all the more daunting because we haven't the slightest idea as to the full extent of them. Phe and Zach are clearly in mile one of a marathon, finding their breath after the beginning sprint, but facing miles of pavement yet to pound.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the story is the somewhat believable explanation for the paranormal occurrences. Instead of expecting us to merely accept the existence of the supernatural, Ms. Hopcus provides a great deal of data to support the unusual nature of the people of Shadow Hills, making the events more interesting as a result of their potential plausibility. Though we are provided copious amounts of information, our actual knowledge isn't even in the realm of absolute, an array of potential outcomes laid out before us like a choose your own adventure novel, only we as readers are denied the ability to choose and remain instead only witnesses to Phe's decisions, left to follow as she dictates but partners in the journey just the same.

Shadow Hills is fairly typical with regard to the teenage relationship, but Ms. Hopcus has carved out a unique niche in the paranormal aspect of her world and filled it with tier after tier of unique possibilities supported by a solid base of main and secondary characters. Arriving at the end of this story is like being in a room with three white walls and one brightly painted – we've been given enough information to bring the story in this first installment to life, but we end up facing multiple blank canvases, our fingers just itching for access to next book and the pages that might bathe those walls of taunting potential in vibrant color.

Rating: 4/5

I have a signed Shadow Hills poster up for grabs for one lucky commenter. If you want to be entered in the giveaway, just leave an email address with your comment so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through Monday, December 13th. Good luck everyone!


  1. I've had this book on my TBR list for a long time, but there's always stuff shoving in ahead of it on my list, demanding my attention first. (Like the 50 books sitting in my room...) Maybe a poster (signed!) will help guilt me into reading?
    Thanks for the giveaway of awesomeness.

  2. Nice Review Jenny! I've seen this one a round a lot and it looks like a nice read... I do need to get back in the YA mood though before I read this LOL

  3. I really need to read this book. Great review. :)
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. I've seen this book around while skulking about the net. It has a very interesting premise. I have a thing about schools with dark secrets.

    Great review!

  5. I've heard lots of good things about this one. I'm glad you liked it? Did you think that it started out a little slow? You didn't give any indication in your review, but somehow from the way you describe the book, it seems like it would take awhile to get into - that there's a lot going on.

  6. Great review. I have read this and I agree it wraps up the first part nicely but leaves plenty of questions for the next installment.

    I can't enter the giveaway because not a US resident but goodluck to everyone else :)

  7. What a fantastic review Jenny. I completely echo your thoughts on what you've written and agree that it's a great set up that leaves enough room open for a second instalment. I can't wait to see what Anastasia comes up with next!

  8. I loved that you used the word copious in your review:)


  9. I love Shadow Hills! Great review, Jenny. I'm glad you enjoyed this one too! :)

  10. I keep wavering back and forth on this one because I'll hear awesome reviews then iffy ones. I think yours was the most in depth and explanatory I've read - and I think I'll finally give it a go. The town of Shadow Hills sounds fascinating! Oooh and I'd so love to win that poster for my new reading room! Please enter me :)

    iswimforoceans at gmail dot com

  11. YAY! So glad you read this book and like it. I admit it drew me in from the very beginning. And great giveaway! Please enter me!!

    bwithbite (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. Wonderful review! I enjoyed this one as well. The ending definitely left me wanting to know more. I wonder if there will be a series.

  13. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I liked it, but it wasn't my favorite. I agree with you on the paranormal explanation though. It was nice that we were given a plausible reason for how the paranormal abilities came into being. I still have so many questions about Phe and her book and ancestor. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

  14. Not a favorite of mine but i did like it enough to read book two when it comes out. Great review as always!

  15. I've seen this book for a while and have read fairly good reviews on it. I like that it has a mysterious atmosphere to it. A lot of the paranormals right now stick to the "mystery" of the love interest, but that starts to fade away once we find that out. I think I'll be picking this book up soon. Thanks for the review and an opportunity to win the poster!

    rummanaha (at) hotmail (dot) com

  16. Great review! I have not had a chance to read this one yet, but it sounds intriguing. It is floating around on my never-ending TBR list!


  17. Thanks for the lovely comments everyone, they always make my day:)

  18. Vibrant review! Now I'm imagining Phe running a marathon while waving a colorful flag. LOL

    I loved Shadow Hills. Phe and co. were great. I can't wait for the rest of the canvases to be colored in for us.

    I'd love to win the poster. Please enter me :D
    missie at theunreadreader.com

  19. Nice review! Glad you enjoyed this one, Hopcus definitely made the supernatural aspect believable. :D

  20. Great review! This makes me want to read this book even more. Thanks so much for having this giveaway!


  21. Nice, Jenny! Not entering contest, but this seems like it has the potential for a lot of emotional resonance because of the guilt of the "one who lived" angle.


  22. Once again, your writing and the way you express your thoughts is so impressive. I've seen this book around the blogosphere, but yours is the only review that has made me want to read it. I'm very intrigued by the paranormal being explained in a believable manner, since I'm such a skeptic.

  23. Oooh I am excited about this one. I bought it on a whim, and it is currently sitting on my book shelf! I don't think I am crazy about the cover but your review sounds like it is something I will enjoy. Great review!

  24. Ooh this sounds good, just that little bit different and I love the character names, beautiful.

  25. Wow, this is a beautifully written review, Jenny! You write so well! I hadn't heard of this one before, so thanks for the heads up!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  26. What a great review. I've been meaning to get around to this one but haven't had a chance yet. I plan on it very soon. The cover of the paperback is gorgeous.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  27. This has been on my TBR List for a while...
    Great review and thanks for the giveaway!


  28. Terrific review! I've had this on my list and need to get to it.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  29. Not entering the giveaway, but wanted to say that this looks like a good YA read. I'm always on the look out for new YA authors. :)

  30. Sweet!