book review, horror, young adult

Storm Shadows by Kenneth W. Cain

15 year old Nita has moved to a new town, new home, and new school after her father gets a promotion to the Chicago police force. Cut off from her old friends due to accidentally breaking her phone, Nita soon falls victim to a cuddly toy gorilla that lives in the attic and haunts her bedroom at night. Her school days aren’t much better, as she’s cruelly targeted by bullies on the bus. Unfortunately for Nita, her troubles are only starting in this highly imaginative nightmare of a book.

I absolutely loved the imaginative elements of this book. I’ve never read a book where someone was tormented by a stuffed toy gorilla, and I have to admit, I wished Nita had tried to communicate with the creature because the idea of toys coming alive delights me (even if they’re very sinister).

There is a wonderful dream like, nightmare quality that permeates this novel. It has the terrifying inevitability of a dark dream where you know that things are going to get worse but there is nothing you can do about it.

In one scene, Cain perfectly describes the frightening phenomenon of sleep paralysis, though for Nita the things she sees are all too real. If you’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, this is a great window into what it’s like.

While the weird things happening to Nita are engrossing, I did find some of her nightly battles with the gorilla in the first half of the book a little repetitive. I was surprised that she never attempted to look for ways to explain her situation, or resolve it. While she didn’t have a phone, surely she had access to a computer at school or a library. Despite her strong relationship with her parents, she never mentions her problems to them for fear of being locked up. It was these decisions, and other instances of problem solving, that made Nita appear younger than her 15 years.

The second half of the book takes the story to a whole other level, with some amazing new developments, and I wish these were given more room to grow as they’re so good. Some plot elements concerning the antagonist are rushed, which is such a shame as they’re so interesting.

The inclusion of Barry, a boy Nita sits beside on the school bus, was great in the second half of the book. Having someone for Nita to talk to helped round out her character.

This is an exciting, quick read with lots of original elements and a creepy, nightmarish atmosphere.

I award Storm Shadows

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