Review: Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Anastasia Hopcus's website here // $12.23 from {amazon}
Publisher: EgmontUSA (July 13, 2010)
Hardcover: 400 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
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.

Shadow Hills is an intriguing mix of Greek mythology, mystery, romance, and a hint of suspense. From page one, readers will be sucked in to the captivating world

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts:Shadow Hills is a prime example of YA paranormal romance; it has everything characteristic of the genre: the mystery, the intrigue, the swoon-worthy love interest, the conflicted and forbidden romance, with a unique twist, the Brevis Vitas. While Shadow Hills isn’t exactly a diamond in a densely-populated paranormal mine, the combination of tried-and-true aspects and a dash of Anastasia Hopcus’s originality make for an enjoyable and fast-paced read.

Shadow Hills opens with Persephone “Phe” Archer leaving sunny L.A. for Devenish Prep in damp Shadow Hills, Massachusetts. Phe’s haunted by vivid, strange dreams and her sister’s recent death and eighteen pages in, bumps into her handsome stranger. A little iPod incident with Zach, mysterious hottie, and she’s already suspecting the normalcy of some boarding school classmates. Shadow Hills plunges us head-first into the secrecy surrounding Shadow Hills, and though I felt a little woozy at first from the rapidity of events and pummeling of information – similar to Phe’s starting confusion – I soon found myself maniacally speculating with Phe over the hidden facets of Shadow Hills. Anastasia Hopcus definitely knows how to balance the romance and action, integrating the two elements and ensuring their quick development.

Phe is a bit of an enigma, despite Shadow Hills being narrated in first person from her perspective. On one hand, she’s one of the most mature characters I’ve encountered when it comes to accepting the existence of the supernatural; on the other, she’s surprisingly immature for her fifteen years. I connected to her emotionally to an extent but her impulsive actions and words made me feel older and slightly condescending – when we’re really the same age. For instance, Phe easily becomes irked and her following comebacks often come across as elementary and cringe-worthy. As in the type of comebacks that made me think, “Oh, I’ve heard that somewhere before” but in a better form. Instead, Phe’s instinctive, sarcastic commentary is infinitely superior, in both maturity level and humor value, to her manufactured retorts. Her overreactions, rash decisions, and almost annoyingly frequent remarks on Zach’s sexual appeal notwithstanding, I applaud Phe’s determination and drive in uncovering Shadow Hill’s secrets, which are a refreshing change from the helpless heroine. And, overall, Anastasia Hopcus does a good job of capturing the teenage voice.

For the most part, Shadow Hills is an enjoyable but fairly average paranormal romance. It has an interesting and diverse cast, an exciting dose of action, and a climactic ending. Anastasia Hopcus’s unique and original ideas are the one area where Shadow Hills has the ability to stand out, and the Brevis Vitas and well-developed history certainly do make it a step above the run-of-the-mill paranormal read. By itself, Shadow Hills’s potential is stunted by a slightly baffling main character and the convenience of some events – is Zach a little too perfect? – but Anastasia Hopcus has created a solid foundation that allows for great potential in the following book(s). All I know for sure is that she has me hooked on discovering the deeper mystery Phe is left to solve at the end of Shadow Hills, and I’ll be eagerly anticipating the sequel.

Romance: Kissing, hugging, deep staring into the eyes, and not much else. Romance-wise, Shadow Hills is safe for young teens. However, there is rather liberal alcohol, and more subtly drug, usage which isn't condemned. There are also instances suited for more mature or slightly older teens, such as a (humorous) instance with Pictionary and "self-service"... I leave the judgment on age to you.
Cover: 3.0 -- Simple, mysterious, and aesthetically pleasing, but it tells next to nothing about the book itself. Sorry.
Writing: 4.0
Characters: 3.5
Plot: 4.5

Bottom Line: Anastasia Hopcus's suspenseful debut provides original, fresh fodder for paranormal fans looking for something different than vampires and werewolves with all of the excitement, all of the mystery, and all of the juicy romance. Don't necessarily read Shadow Hills expecting something absolutely ground-breaking but do read it expecting an enjoyable, fast-paced, and thrilling ride.

Source: Thank you to Anastasia Hopcus and EgmontUSA for the review copy!