When I cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

When I Cast Your Shadow: The Strangest Read of the Year

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Published by Tor Teen: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal

Pages: 384

OH MY GOD. I’m floored, y’all. This book is so wonderfully fucking weird. The weirdest thing I’ve read all year, and I adored it. I do want to say I think this book is very clearly not for everyone, but I want to lay out why I love it so much so you can see whether it is for you!

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

All the Wrong Chords Book

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined…

The Writing

Is absolutely stunning. It’s first person, present tense, and switches between almost all points of view! That is so, unbelievably hard to pull off, but it works so well in this case. Each character sounds and feels different, and were you to read a chapter at random, having known the characters, I think you would know quite easily whose voice you were reading.

In addition to that, the craft is just beautiful. I was legitimately enamored of Porter’s phrasing throughout. The descriptions of everything are so thorough, while not being distracting. The world-building is insane, especially the parts in a place that is like purgatory? If purgatory were terrible and terrifying. I couldn’t wait for more chapters in this area, just to see how weird and gross it would continue to become.

 

The pacing is perfect for me. Had I had time, I could have easily read this book in one sitting.

The Characters

This is one of those phenomenal books where the characters aren’t likable, but I still care so much about them and what happens to them. MAD props to an author who can make me care about a book with no likable characters.

We have Ruby, one of our narrators. I can honestly say I did not like her for even one second, but I rooted for her and felt for her and wanted the best for her the entire time. Her poor little torn soul is so sad, so overwhelmingly pathetic.

Everett is Ruby’s twin, and the one character I could say I kind of like. He cares so much for Ruby, and tries to do right by her and everyone he meets, really, and he’s just beautiful.

Dashiell is the other main player, and his character is amazing because we see him in so many forms. We see him possessing Ruby, possessing Everett, independent of either, and he is so different in each form while remaining so manipulative and his motives keep us guessing.

The side characters are mostly weird, creepy-as-hell ghosts, and they’re completely, disgustingly delightful.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is this: there’s a lot here that could be really disturbing. We have a very icky brother-sister relationship, we have a lot of family hurt and betrayal, we have a drug overdose/seemingly suicide. If these are triggers for you, you may want to stay away.

I love it for its oddity. This is, for me, such a completely new take on ghosts, which I was ecstatic about. I had never seen a concept even close. I LOVE sibling stories, even when they’re as fucked up as this one. The dynamic here is different and nasty but the whole story really is about these three kids coming to terms with life and death and their relationship.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

Starswept by Mary Fan

Starswept

Starswept by Mary Fan

Published by Snowy Wings; Scheduled for August 29th

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 400

I just realized the irony of this: the last two books I read were called Starswept and Starfish, both with Asian MC’s! How coincidental. I love it.

Starswept by Mary Fan

All the Wrong Chords Book

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Starswept by Mary Fan

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Starswept. I honestly went into it expecting to love it more than I did. But there is a lot to love here, and the premise is a huge part of that.

First, there’s a lot going on. It’s dystopian, there are aliens, there’s this whole music school element. It doesn’t seem like it should all mesh but it does, very well for me.

The music school where we start is great because it feels almost commonplace, though it’s run, to a degree, by aliens and holograms. There’s so much pressure, so much realistic detail of band kids, and I really enjoyed that. The descriptions of the school, the performances, are all beautiful to me.

I found the dystopian aspect of this fascinating, though for the most part I’m burnt out on that. I love that this is an entirely new take on that. Aliens that could easily have taken over Earth don’t, because they’re so intrigued by human art. Instead they “sponsor” humans they like, and bring them to their planet. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth has it pretty terrible.

I like the aliens, too. I think their powers are fun and interesting, and the way they’ve chosen to interact with Earthlings is very cool.

So, overall, I like the story very much. I will say I’m confused because as far as I’m aware, this isn’t part of a series? Or at least it wasn’t introduced to me that way. If this is a stand alone book, the entire world remains unresolved at the end. That may seem like a spoiler, but I think it’s important to know because I would have liked to have known. I am left feeling distinctly unfulfilled because the parts with closure weren’t the parts I cared about.

The Characters

Our narrator, Iris, I have mixed feelings on. I think she could be a little boring at times, but I did root for her, which is mostly what I’m looking for. The problem for me is that I’m mostly interested in the story, the world that has been built, but the big focus is on Iris and Damiul, and I couldn’t really get invested in either of them.

Damiul is the alien that Iris meets. I wanted to like this so much, I am SUCH a sucker for interstellar love. This was a little too insta-love for me. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, we saw few of their meetings. But they were short and Damiul had to keep so much from Iris that their love didn’t excite me, it confused me. I can understand how it happened, when we have a girl so obsessed with finding “her prince,” but I couldn’t connect with their love story.

My two favorite characters are side characters, and both are only around for one half of the book or the other. I love Milo, Iris’s best friend on Earth. He’s fun, and considerably less naive. Then, on Adryil, we meet Cara, whom I also adore.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Overall, I liked it. The descriptions were beautiful. The world-building, especially during the second half, are phenomenal.

There are some pacing issues, and I think that’s the biggest problem I’m having overall. Some parts moved quickly and were really fascinating, some parts were too slow and it was hard to stay engrossed in the world.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Is that I would have LOVED for this to be split into two books. I think if the story between Iris and Damiul had been given more time to develop, I could have been on board with them. And I will be very disappointed if there is no closure for the world itself.

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

These things I've done by Rebecca Phillips

Q&A with Rebecca Phillips: Author of These Things I’ve Done

I could not be more honored to be part of the blog tour for These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips!

The release date was the first of August, so go get the book! You need the book!

I love These Things I’ve Done, y’all. Here’s my review if you haven’t read it, where I say things like:

My favorite contemporary of 2017.

It is really special when a book tells you from the very beginning exactly what’s going to happen, and still makes you cry when it happens.

…it killed me. In the best way possible.

So, needless to say, I’m THRILLED to have a Q&A with Rebecca on Off-Color Literature today!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

Before:
Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.

After:
It’s been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn’t racked with guilt over her role in her best friend’s death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn’t half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, every day. Not just because he’s a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she’s betraying her best friend one final time.

 

So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Rebecca!

I was so, immediately intrigued by the idea of your book. What inspired you to write These Things I’ve Done? Which part of the story came to you first?

The idea actually came from my lovely author friend, Cara Bertrand. She was driving one day and came across two girls playfully scuffling on the sidewalk next to her. She had a horrifying flash of “OMG, what if one of those girls ended up under my car?” She thought it would make for a powerful story—a girl accidently causing the death of her friend. She suggested I write it because I already had experience writing guilt and grief in my book Out of Nowhere. But this idea was a lot heavier, and at first I was against it. Too disturbing for me. But after a few days I started coming around and the next thing I knew, I had an outline.

Writing always has its difficulties, of course, but do you think it’s harder to write difficult/dark subject matter?

For me, absolutely. It’s hard for me to get into such a difficult headspace. I’m a mom, and the thought of one of my teens going through something so traumatic tears me up.

I cried reading your book, which is one of the best compliments I could give. Did you cry while writing it?

Thank you! It’s one of the best compliments I can receive. Yes, I cried while writing it, which was a first for me. I also cried when I finished, because it was so hard and because I got very attached to the characters.

Since These Things I’ve Done is written in alternate timelines, did you write it the way we read it? Or did you write each timeline separately?

I wrote it the way you read it. It was really challenging to switch tenses and tones with each chapter, but that was the only way I could see myself doing it.

Did this book go through any significant changes while you were writing? 

While I was writing, no. I pounded out the draft in 3-4 months and didn’t change anything during that time. It didn’t go through significant revisions until it reached Catherine, my HarperTeen editor. We went through two big revisions, and I think it’s so much better now. Catherine is amazing.

Do you base your characters on people you know?

Sometimes, but always very loosely. Aubrey’s character was sort of based on one of my daughter’s friends. Ethan’s band was loosely based off a band my husband played guitar for in high school. As for Dara, I was binging Friday Night Lights while writing the first draft, so she started to look like Julie Taylor in my head. And I was going for a gruff, quiet type like Coach Taylor for Dara’s dad.

I think everyone has a special book they remember as the first that emotionally devastated them. What was the first book that you cried over?

It was a middle grade book called With You and Without You by Ann M. Martin. I used to read it every year when I was a kid, and I cried every time. I read it recently and cried again. It’s incredibly touching and well-written.

Does writing exhilarate or exhaust you? Does that change depending on what you’re writing?

Both, and it definitely depends on what I’m writing. There’s a particular scene near the end of These Things I’ve Done (you probably know the one) that emotionally drained me so much that it took me hours to feel happy again after writing it.

Do you go through writing slumps? If so, what do you do to get out of them?

Oh God, yes. I don’t really do anything to get out of them. I basically just wait for them to pass, which they always do (knock on wood). I was extremely burnt out after finishing These Things I’ve Done and wondered if I’d ever write another book. Well, I did write another book (which comes out in 2018 with HarperTeen), and I can’t wait to get started on my ninth book this fall.

I read that you have been writing since you yourself were a teenager! Has your writing process changed over time? 

It got less sucky? I hope? I read stuff I wrote back then and cringe. It was so, so bad.

There are so many great books that sadly don’t get the attention they deserve. Do you have a favorite lesser-known or under-appreciated novel? 

I agree! My answer to this question is always Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. I have (sometimes literally) shoved this amazing, twisty book on everyone I know. It honestly boggles my mind that it hasn’t sold a zillion copies and been made into an amazing, twisty movie.

So exciting that These Things I’ve Done has such great reviews already! Do you read reviews on all your novels? How well do you deal with any negative feedback?

I read all my reviews, good and bad. The good ones (like yours!) make my day. The negative ones sometimes hurt, but I still learn from them. Not everyone is going to like my books, and that’s fine. I appreciate every review.

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Rebecca Phillips

Rebecca Phillips has been writing YA since she was a YA herself. She’s the author of:

The JUST YOU series
OUT OF NOWHERE
FAKING PERFECT (Kensington)
ANY OTHER GIRL (Kensington)
THESE THINGS I’VE DONE (HarperTeen)

Rebecca lives in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, two children, and one spoiled rotten cat. None of them say “eh” or “aboot.”

Visit Rebecca on her website www.rebeccawritesya.com and on Twitter @RebeccaWritesYA

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Thanks so much to Rebecca Phillips, her agent Eric Smith, and HarperTeen for access to this book and the chance to be a part of this blog tour!