Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Shallow Graves

 Title: Shallow Graves
Author: Kali Wallace
Genre: Young Adult | Magic | Mystery
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.
When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace (goodreads).

Shallow Graves boasts a unique concept, but it's time like these that we remember that less is more. 
Plot: Shallow Graves demands attention immediately. Breezy is a reanimated corpse who can sense if someone around her has taken a life, and then she can kill them herself. It's all fascinating and I was hooked from the get-go. I really liked the structure of the novel; the reader wakes up with Breezy and we are as confused and disoriented as she is. Every so often, Wallace would include a chapter that served as a flashback to give insight to Breezy. From her first murder in Evanston, Illinois (HOLLER CHICAGOLAND), Breezy hitch-hikes to Colorado where she discovers that monsters really do exist and that she is lumped into that category in her undead state. 

The middle chunk really pulled me out of the book because it felt like two novels smooshed in the same binding. There are ghouls, there are witches, and they have no place in Breezy's journey to discover herself. The pacing and tone finds itself again towards the end where Breezy does a lot of soul-searching and comes to terms with her unpleasant end. If Wallace could have cut all the monsters and cults, I would have liked this book a lot more. 

Characters: Breezy, you beautiful complex character, you! Breezy comes to the reader as a blank slate, we know nothing about her - other than the fact that she was killed after a typical high school party. I liked that bits of her were slowly revealed with chapters dedicated to her family, friends, and high school life. She is complex, she is biracial, and she takes control of her own sexuality. It's wonderful. I was more interested in the friends and family that Breezy knew before her untimely death, than I was in the cast of characters Breezy met during her hitchhike across the United States. 

Worldbuilding: Kali Wallace does a phenomenal job of capturing the spirit of each city she explores. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time in Evanston, I was pleased with its representation. And although I have never hitch-hiked across the United States, I really liked the description of the stops that Breezy made along the way. I could see the dirt being kicked up as Breezy pulled into the church, and I could see all the sketchy individuals she encountered at the diners and gas stations. There is no question that Kali Wallace has a way with words.

Short N Sweet: Shallow Graves' tone will suck in anyone who loves horror, I just wish that it stuck with the story of an undead girl trying to find her way, instead of adding ancient witches and other creatures of the night. 


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