Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review: Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

SUMMARY (From amazon):

After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA -- a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.

Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach -- the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after -- seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.


Mysterious and twisty, Shadow Hills blends romance, science, the supernatural and prep schools in an intriguing, well plotted way. With a striking cast of characters and detailed, fluid writing, Hopcus has pitched a book that will appeal to both the romantics and the supernatural addicts.

Phe is a new student at Devenish prep, though not because of punishment or some delinquent status. Instead, she is in search of answers after her sister's death. Having watched her family unravel in the aftermath, it wasn't particularly upsetting for her to suddenly want to go across the country to a boarding school. Phe is an easy character to like and while some of her reactions seemed awkward to me, considering the build up to why she even went to Devenish, they can be explained off. She has an innate burning curiosity and a great ability to piece things together. With a few other abilities that have a great explanation, Phe's character is inserted into this plot very smoothly.

Zach is awkward and amusing, sexy yet not cocky or arrogant. Taken with Phe instantly, he risks far more than what is made evident at first. While the romance between the two seemed a little off to me, the final productive was spot on and beautiful. They fell, and fell hard with no turning back, and the manifestations of it added some great elements to the story.

Adriana is full of herself and stuck up, but her friendship with Phe added plenty of things for both girls, as well as some comedic relief. Brody plays a surprisingly large role in the plot as well, and his character is probably my favorite. He's quiet but watchful, a horrible but adorable flirt, and also helps drive the plot in surprising ways.

The plot itself is well thought out, pulling in several different elements and twisting them to create something new and fantastic. Hopcus lays the groundwork for what is to come early, and slips in several clues along the way that could allow the reader to predict the overall conspiracy, while still retaining enough of the big clues until close enough to the final reveal. The underlying mystery being solved is well constructed, played out, and tied up. At the close of the book, this story is wrapped up and leaves the reader in a great place, and the overall set up and creation makes it easy for Hopcus to slip back into this world for future installments set in the small, closed off, mysterious town of Shadow Hills.

Hopcus' writing is easy to read while still being detailed, and gives a good voice to Phe. From the light to the intense, action to emotional, Hopcus has a great handle on writing a wide spread. With a mix of dialogue and action, strong build up to the overall picture and scenes of the teens just being students and teens, the entire world and spread paints a great layout. Shadow Hill is a great debut and shows high promise for future works from Hopcus.

Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (July 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840835
ISBN-13: 978-1606840832

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