Living with his grandparents on a tiny island off the Washington State coast, Zach feels cut off from the world. Especially when he's forbidden to chat with his online friends. But then his little brother, Gilbert, is kidnapped. To find him, Zach discovers how to astral project. Soon, his spirit is soaring through the strange and boundless astral realm—a shadow place.
While searching for his brother, Zach meets a boy named Emory, another astral traveler who's intriguing (and cute). As they track the kidnappers from the astral realm, their bond grows—but each moment could be Gilbert's last. Even worse, there's a menacing, centuries-old creature in their midst that devours souls and possesses physical bodies. And it's hungry for Zach.
OPINION: 3 STARS
The Short Version:
Fun in premise and well done in execution, Shadow Walkers does a nice spin on astral projection. With a nicely developed protagonist, and pulling in a gay relationship without making it simply a coming out or gay-angst kind of book, this one is easy to read and enjoyable. Twists along the way and a budding romance mix smoothly to make something fresh.
The Extended Version:
Zach is an easy character to like, someone who has faced some hardships but doesn't let it drag him down too much. His love for his little brother is clear at the start, and the way the two interact even before Gilbert is kidnapped builds this in a great way. Though he's gay, Zach doesn't harbor on it any more than any straight teenager would when it comes to having a crush on someone. He's intelligent and dedicated, and makes some great personal transitions throughout the book.
Emory is introduced in a very great way, and has a strong presence from then on. Though he has his own problems, it's easy to see why someone would fall for him. The banter with Zach is great, and the growing feelings between them have a very real, very smooth nature to them that pulls the reader in right alongside.
This one has several twists in what seems like a simple plot, keeping the pages turning without muddling the different story lines. The romance is certainly present but not overbearing, and slips in at all the right times. A little bit of mystery, action and danger all combine to hit hard on the boy angle of this book while still being something plenty of female readers will enjoy and get into as well. While some parts were predictable, Hartinger has added plenty of things that are his own.
The writing is very easy to follow, and though the voice wasn't quite as strong as I'd have liked, it still is definitely very boy without being contrite. The descriptions are very vivid, and though this is one where the descriptions didn't seem quite in sync with Zach's natural mindset, it still does a great job building both the astral and material planes for the reader.
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 216 pages
Publication Date: February 8, 2011