Review: Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Chasing Shadows by Swati AvasthiChasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi
Published by Knopf BFYR on September 24, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
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two-half-stars

Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence.

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop.

But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof...

After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she's chasing Corey's killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly's just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, told in two voices, and incorporating comic-style art sections, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend . . . and how many ways to be lost.

Chasing Shadows didn’t get any marketing to speak of, and I really didn’t know much about it. What lured me into requesting it was the mixed media element, the combination of a regular novel and graphic novel. Turns out Chasing Shadows is just as unique as that suggests. Despite there being a whole lot to like about it, the book missed worming its way into my heart, and I ended up feeling rather bored a lot of the time.

Chasing Shadows has a great hook. The first couple of chapters are incredibly intense. Holly, Corey and Savitri are free running through the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, doing flips and handstands. Holly and Corey are twins, daring and willing to take risks. Savitri’s the careful one, the one who might be heading off to Stanford in the fall and leaving her best friend and boyfriend behind. As they’re confronting this fact, a shooting comes out of nowhere, killing Corey and sending Holly into a coma.

Basically, my jaw was on the floor. Before you get on me about spoilers, this all happens before page 20. It’s intense and terrifying and random. I thought this was going to be totally my thing, but then the book got weird. The graphic novel sections then often show Corey in death, where Holly’s trying to save him from Kortha, an evil snake man. Apparently this mixes a lot of Hindu mythology, learned from Savitri, but it was a bit much for me. Every time that happened, I was thrown out of the book and going “REALLY?” It’s a unique idea, and I do like the way that Avasthi blended in Hindu mythology, so I think it will work for some readers more than it did for me.

Savitri is definitely the best character. She works really hard to be a good friend to Holly, who’s going off her rocker, while also trying to deal with the death of the boy she loved. For once, a book depicts a POC character without making a HUGE deal out of her or having her end up being a terrible person. Savitri’s the one who’s got it all together. She’s smart, she’s a planner, and she’s a really good person. There is mention of her heritage and it’s obviously important to her, but Savitri is also very blended into American culture.

Chasing Shadows is often startling and terrifying. If you connect emotionally to the characters, events will probably ruin you. On the one hand, I did love the subject matter, dealing with grief in the wake of Corey’s death, but I just wasn’t sure if Holly’s reaction was realistic or not. Her insanity after such a tragedy, particularly knowing he was right next to her when he died and probably saved her life, does seem possible, but the whole thing with Kortha and the Leopardess, her favorite superhero, was so ridiculous I had trouble taking it seriously.

I also ended up struggling with the graphic novel sections. They always happened in Holly’s point of view, but she also had prose POV too. It seems like the graphic novel bits are meant to represent her madness, but it’s stated at one point that she’s very visual, and that’s not a crazy thing to be. It would have worked better for me if Holly were ALL graphic novel, not just when she’s going off the rails, because I don’t like the comments that makes on a visual thinker.

Ultimately, I think Chasing Shadows has a lot of draws: free running, mental health, and diversity. Though I didn’t love it, I would definitely recommend it to the right reader.

Favorite Quote:

Heroes aren’t born from pain; they just make good decisions in bad moments.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

shrug

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