SHADOWLANDS is one of those books that has me seriously questioning my taste in fiction, because even though everything about it was pretty poorly done, from the "paranormal" element to the characters to the way law enforcement handled criminal activities, I enjoyed every moment of it, terrible twist and all (seriously, Khanh puts it best in her review, when she says that the author M. Night Shyamalan'd the heck out of the story).
SHADOWLANDS is about two sisters, Rory and Darcy. Rory was almost the victim of one of her high school teachers, Mr. Nell, who turns out to be a wanted serial killer. Their lives are disrupted when the most incompetent task force of the FBI arrives on the scene, swarm outside their house, somehow manage to let the serial killer inside the house, and then pack off the family to a safe house in the middle of nowhere, leaving one of their squad cars unlocked for the serial killer to follow the family in pursuit.
Who does that? Who leaves an unlocked cop car out when a serial killer on the loose? Since he was able to just swipe it, I can only imagine that the keys were left in the ignition, too...
Why not just hand Mr. Serial Killer a map to their new house, while you're at it...
Anyway the family arrives at a place called Juniper Landing. There's several weird things about Juniper Landing: 1. everything has a swan logo on it, 2. the people who live there are super creepy and stare at Rory wherever she goes, and 3. all the kids have leather bracelets, like they're in some kind of super creepy, super secret club/cult. Also, they all want to be biffles with Rory.
*cut to a group of leather wristband-wearing kids holding a boombox playing "Why Can't We Be Friends?" outside Rory's window*
Rory suffers from PTSD/anxiety from her close call with the serial killer and bonding and making new biffles is the last thing on her mind, but Darcy resents Rory for dragging her away from her active social life and immediately sets about trying to hook up with the local hotties.
The weird thing (re: the cliche thing) is, the kids have zero interest in Darcy - they all seem to like Rory, instead. You can imagine how Darcy feels about that. Add that to the fact that Rory technically stole Darcy's last boyfriend out from under her, and yeah, there's a whole lot of tension.
SO. MUCH. TENS.
By the way, just in case you didn't understand that Darcy is supposed to be a b*tch, nearly all of her dialogue is followed by a "glare" or "she spoke through gritted teeth." That is, when she's not launching herself at boys, "standing on her toes" to see where the boys are at, or begging to go to parties to be with boys (because as we all know, parties are the spawn of Satan and only demon girls wish to attend them).
For a while, it feels like typical teen drama, but then Rory starts finding clues that suggest Mr. Nell might have followed them to the island, and some of the people on the island start disappearing. Pretty soon, Rory starts to think that Mr. Nell might actually be the least of her problems, because there might possibly be something wrong with the island - and its inhabitants - itself.
Like I said, this was a really weird and not very well done book. Incompetent law enforcement aside (seriously, why are the police and the FBI always so clueless in YA?), SHADOWLANDS tries to be a bit of everything - paranormal, teen drama, thriller, murder mystery - and falls short because it fails to cover all the bases. The author does drop a few clues, and I was able to more or less guess what the twist was about 100 pages before the big reveal, but it does feel a bit cheap. I can understand why some readers felt like their suspension of disbelief had been betrayed.
Also, I don't really feel like making this book into a trilogy was really necessary. With a little work, it could have been compressed into a single volume, and that might have worked better than what the author chose to do, which was build the plot up for 300 pages and then drop the twist bombshell on the last sentence of the last page and sequel baiting as brutally as those teenage fanfic writers.
I still liked it, though.
2.5 out of 5 stars