The world's gone to hell, and our heroine Alex has been left outside the community of Rule to face the zombie teens, the Changed, in the fight of her life. Meanwhile, Tom, her partner/friend, has disappeared and survival seems unlikely. So begins the second book in Ilsa Bick's Shadows trilogy, and from the word go, the action is fast, unexpected, and gory. Did I mention gory?
Bick doesn't waste time recapping the storyline, but a helpful hint for those who've forgotten anything would be to visit the author's website as she has a great page to refresh your memory. Instead, we're launched into Alex's predicament, surrounded by Changed...and it's not a spoiler to say that while she lives, the situation is one of constant danger and vividly horrible positions. While we are dealing with Alex's dilemma, we are also bounced through the points of view of Tom, Chris, Peter, and a few others, making it hard at times to keep the action straight. But that's a minor quibble in this excellent, action filled sequel.
Bick is a master of keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat, and I'm no exception. Many of her chapters end as cliff hangers, making the "just one more chapter" bit an almost constant issue. There is a point midway when the action slams back and forth between Alex and Tom that literally left me exhausted as the pages flew between life threatening situations. That segment alone would be worth the price of the book, but Shadows is so much more than "Chuckies" eating people; it's about relationships, fear, survival, and the degeneration of humanity. Just when it can't get worse, it does, and Bick succeeds in breaking our hearts more than once. When Jack entered the story, I nearly lost it.
I absolutely loved Shadows and one of my particular joys while reading is that Bick does not write down for the reader: her vocabulary is extensive and well used, and her knowledge, particularly of old mines, traps, and the depravity of humans, shines through. I'm impressed that Bick expects the reader to infer so much and that she's able to tie so many threads together so well. This is what young adult writing should be.
Big warning though: While I adored Shadows, it is filled with gore, to the point that I even skimmed a few passages to avoid the mental picture. And while I applaud Bick for not shying away from situations that bring the terror of the zombies to life, I do think those with a weak stomach might want to consider before reading. I'd recommend this one for those at the older end of the young adult spectrum, but adults like me will definitely find much to love. Highly recommended.