Review by Kelly Jarvis: The Shadow Sister
The Shadow Sister is a gripping Young Adult mystery debut from author Lily Meade. It tells the story of two sisters, Casey and Sutton, who struggle to get along with one another in their teen years. When Sutton is the third black girl in the area to go missing, Casey, who continues to harbor deep resentments for her sister, must put on a loving act so the press and police will focus attention on finding a black girl. When Sutton returns home with no memory of what she endured, her new relationship with Casey will unsettle everything Casey has believed about her life and her family’s past.
The story is told through Casey’s first-person point of view, which allows for heart-breaking confessions about the complex nature of sisterhood. Sutton’s point of view punctuates Casey’s narrative in chapters which bring the reader back to the day she goes missing and to several days years before. Both girls struggle to understand their mixed heritage and take comfort in the love from their recently deceased grandmother, Remy, who left them a silver bracelet with a unique charm. Their father’s work includes personal and historical research into Hoodoo practices and herbal slave medicines that inform the modern spiritual practices of African Americans. This information greatly impacts the twist at the end of the story as the magic of family and sisterhood overcomes the ugliness and dangers of the world.
Although the end of the book was a twist that may confuse some readers, Meade justifies her ending by explaining that she wanted to reclaim the narrative of victimhood that haunts black characters in American fiction. The Shadow Sister effectively combines authentic young adult voices with important historical and spiritual information to address the effects of intergenerational trauma and the potential for healing. The prose moves quickly, and the plot is engaging. This book will hold the interest of the adolescent reader while proving an adult audience with a deep look at how structural inequity impacts contemporary teenage life. This is a book I would consider using in my Young Adult Literature class because of its tight blend of personal confession, social commentary, and spiritual critique.
You can find the book here.
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.