by Kali Wallace
Expected Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the author in exchange for honest review consideration. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.
When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.
When I heard about Shallow Graves I was really excited about it, my excitement disappeared as soon as I looked at the Goodreads page. See, a lot of people had been shelving this book as “horror>zombies”, and I am a staunch hater of all things zombie. The early reviews were good, though, and I had a review copy, so I decided to give it a try.
I’m so glad I did. Shallow Graves is not a zombie novel. Main character Breezy does wake up in a shallow grave a year after her death, but she has none of the hallmarks of zombie-ness. The other desire she has to hurt others is connected to her newfound superpower: she can tell who’s killed someone. . . and has a desire to exact vengeance on them. People’s brains, though? Totally safe. The closest categorization for Breezy is probably a revenant, which is discussed in the book.
When Shallow Graves starts, Breezy doesn’t really know what she’s doing in this new world of hers. When she was alive, she was an ambitious and driven person(and had planned on being an astronaut), so suddenly her after-life seems pretty lacking in comparison. However, Breezy doesn’t get to contemplate it for long. Soon she learns she’s not the only supernatural being in the world. She meets a whole host of monsters — including some humans who desperately want to either kill or “cure” all the monsters. Some are monsters that aren’t uncommon in legends and stories(like ghouls), and some are new. Shallow Graves is atmospheric and well, for lack of a better word, interesting. If you’re a fan of Supernatural(the TV show), the story line holds some hints of familiarity, except it’s told from the monsters’ point of view.
When I finished reading Shallow Graves I tweeted this because I wanted people to have it on their radar:
Oh hey I read SHALLOW GRAVES today & if you like philosophical horror YA w/ biracial bisexual MC & humor you should add to your 2016 TBR.
— Stormy (@stormydawnc) November 5, 2015
After about the first 15%, I did. not. want. to put this book down. The plot kept going places I didn’t foresee and adding in all these interesting characters. There were some genuinely creepy scenes that left me shuddering, but for all the horror, the heart of Shallow Graves *is* a rather philosophical, feminist horror. There’s violence against women(obviously, as Breezy’s been murdered by the time the book began) but it’s actually dealt with and something that Breezy often ponders. Breezy feels stuck in-between the humans and monsters of the world, because she may be a monster now but she was born human.
I do want to point out there are a lot of flashbacks in Shallow Graves, which some people really don’t like. I’m not always a fan, but I thought they (mostly) really worked for the story. There were a few times in which I wanted a flashback to be shorter in order to get back to the main action, but on the whole they really added to the character development. I think many readers will also appreciate there’s no half-hiding the diversity aspect of the book. Breezy’s racial background is discussed, as is her sexuality(and yes, because it seems so rare in YA, the word bisexual is used by Breezy herself). Even though Breezy is a bit too busy figuring out what exactly kind of monster/human hybrid she is to really have any romance, there’s no erasure.
Even though the pacing was great and I couldn’t put the book down, by far my favorite part was the character. Breezy meets some really interesting characters, including two ghoul brothers I grew to love quickly in Jake and Zeke. The villains were legitimately frightening, there were intriguing characters with moral ambiguity, some lovely and some humorous moments between characters. As much as I love contemporary books I also love YA fantasy series, and often I love those series because you spend so long with the characters that you start to feel like you *really* know them as people. I find that less often in a stand alone, but that’s how I felt about the characters in Shallow Graves.
Shallow Graves was a wild ride of a story that I really enjoyed. I became attached to the characters much more than I expected, and I loved the humor and the unexpected(to me) feminist themes. I can’t say it’s exactly a 5 star read, more of a 4.5, but a 4.5. in which I’ll round up for the purpose of rating. Basically: Do like, do recommend. 4.5/5 cupcakes.