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Review: Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they're starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?

It has been said there are five factual, strategic, and effective stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each consumer of grief is supposed to experience these emotions in the exact order listed and then accept the reality that their loved one or close friend is in a better place. End of story. The unexpected loss of an intimate family member is equipped with a multitude of feelings that no one can truly explain. There is no possible strategy to fully accept death; death is an inevitable solution in all of us, especially for Rory Miller’s family.

Rory Miller, her father, and her older sister Darcy are just one of numerous families dealing with the battle of cancer and their significant loss of Rory and Darcy’s mother to this disease. Rory works to suppress her feelings through cross country running, academic science competitions, and immense amounts of studying. As if the loss of her mother isn’t enough to cope with, a short cut through the woods on the way home from school one day will force her into a deeper sense of desperation and fear of the unknown. Rory is attacked in the woods by Roger Krauss, a serial killer of young girls who has skillfully eluded the FBI for the past decade. Unfortunately, Rory’s attacker also happens to be the beloved math teacher Mr. Nell of Princeton Hills High School. A man she thought she knew and admired through academic mentoring. Krauss has brutally murdered 14 girls in several states, but that is not enough as he plans to make Rory number 15.

As the plot progresses into Rory’s family traveling to their mysterious new lives, there is a sense of hope that develops with the fast paced plot as her family encounters the vacation island of Juniper Landing, their new home. Rory and Darcy can barely stand each other, let alone their father after the death of their mother, but with a fresh start, new faces, and a new last name, what could go wrong?

As Rory’s family is entered into the witness protection program due to the nightmare of horrors invading their home, I found myself unable to put this book down. The concept of being attacked and or stalked by a serial killer is one of my worst fears as a girl myself, especially the idea of my family being included in such a horrible experience. I followed Rory through her inability to sort out her grief between her deceased mother and her living sister and father, while the rest of her family retreated into the comfort of the shadows. As I followed Rory’s family through each painful memory of their mother, the limited amount of photographs and personal belongings they were allowed to bring with them, and the overall sense of confusion they feel as their lives continue to spiral into the unknown. The process of moving your entire life from your childhood home and even an unexpected future that you did not plan for after high school would be extremely emotional.

Kate Brian is by far an extremely edgy author who continually leaves me with a sense of wanting more. Shadowlands is the first of a new series that unravels the grief and fear within a close-knit family, while creating constant amounts of character development that is easy to visualize and understand. Rory is depicted as much more than your average teenage girl, but a girl who is afraid of her own grief, but not her own ability to overcome the unknown. Along with her family’s journey, there are many life lessons as well as the determined ability to let someone in. You never truly know who your friends are until you are faced with a life-altering experience, and in Rory’s case, if only they knew.

Reviewed by Nicole Williams

Book Information
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 9/3/2013
Pages: 352

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