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Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

October 30, 2010

Publisher: EdgemontUSA

Publication Date: July 13, 2010

Format: Hardcover

Status: First in a possible series of four to six books, according to the FAQ on Hopcus’ blog. Whether there will be a book two is unconfirmed.

Source: Purchased by self

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Other Info: The front doorway/intro to her website is pretty.

Description: (From the back cover):

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has  been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out  what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow  Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s  something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that  decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and  gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more  entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what  links her to this town…might cost  her  her life.

I was really excited about this book. I thought I had unearthed a heretofore undiscovered (by me) Teen Paranormal Romance Set in a Private Boarding School. And I had. And it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. All in all, this was a pretty average book. There was nothing new or surprising in it and there was nothing in it that got me excited one way or the other. I mean, in either a good way or a bad way. True, I rolled my eyes at certain points, but sometimes I do that when I’m reading a book that is a guilty pleasure. Shadow Hills doesn’t qualify as a guilty pleasure book. Whether or not I’m eager to get to the end of a book is one of the benchmarks I use to gauge how much I like what I’m reading. That’s probably true for you, so I’ll just say that I was eager to finish Shadow Hills.  But not because I wanted to see how things turned out at the end–because I wanted to move on to the next book in my TBR pile.

Shadow Hills takes place in one of my favorite settings. Which I’ve mentioned already, so there’s no need for me to tell you what it is for the six thousandth time. The main character and narrator, Persephone “Phe” Archer, has come from LA to go to school at Devenish, your standard East Coast Prep School. It’s somewhere in Massachusetts. There’s no point in my rehashing all the things the description tells you about this novel, so I won’t. But the death of Phe’s sister plays a much smaller role in this book than it suggests. Phe’s sister (predictably named Athena) died some time ago–six months to a year. I don’t know why, exactly, but that surprised me. I think it took some of the immediacy away from the story–but on the other hand, it gave Phe enough time to have moved on and eased up on grieving enough to move on with her life a little.

Phe is fifteen, though she doesn’t come off the page as one so young. This could be attributed to the death of her sister, but she seemed a little too, I don’t know, adult-minded to be authentically fifteen. Also, I couldn’t help feeling that she was a bit Mary Sue-ish. I say this without knowing anything about the author. Except what’s on the back cover blurb. But I suspect that Anastasia Hopcus is as much a music snob as Phe. Even if Phe isn’t a Mary Sue, she’s a wee bit on the perfect side. If she has flaws we don’t see them much. She’s attractive, of average height, a good swimmer, a decent student, makes friends easily, sticks up for herself and others, and it all kind of got boring after a while. What foibles Phe has are cute. Like snorting when she laughs or blushing easily.

Zach, the hero and designated “hot guy” also suffers from the Perfect Syndrome. He’s extremely good-looking, kind to his elders, superpowered and supersmart. He stands up for others and rescues kittens from rooftops. Okay, I made the last part up. But, seriously, when Zach’s alter-ego (and enemy and cousin) showed up on the scene, I wanted him to be the hero because, hello? Dark chocolate-y bad guys are infinitely more interesting than vanilla-y boring wonder boys. Yawn. Unfortunately, the bad guys crosses too far into evil jerk territory to be an realistic foil for Zach. In fact, he’s so perfect he doesn’t really have any competition. You know, I think I was more disappointed in this book than I thought when I first started this review.

The thing that this book suffers from the most is that vanilla thing I mentioned. I don’t really have a problem with vanilla, as a flavor, but I’d much rather eat dark chocolate. I didn’t really care whether or not Phe and Zach got together. They were too cutesy together and everything was too easy. I was talking to a friend once about how a couple on a TV show I liked was sooo boring and she said that was probably the sign of a good relationship. If that’s so, then Phe and Zach will, in all likelihood, spend an eternity together.

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