Everyone has those moments where you go down the internet rabbit hole and you’ll start off searching for who directed Captain America Winter Soldier and suddenly 30 minutes have past and you’re looking at a wikipedia entry of a list of every guest appearance on SNL ever. Somehow I went down one of those rabbit holes and ended up in the backlog of a website interviewing illustrators of book covers and 5 more books magically appeared on my TBR. Falls the Shadows was one of those books because oh my goodness, that cover. I love this cover so much I wrote an analysis of the design work because every time I tried to write this review I started gushing about typography. Also because there wasn’t a lot I felt I needed to say about this book.
Cate is only 12 or so, her sister Violet dies. Before the week is out, however, Violet is back with the Benson family, as if nothing had happened. When they were both born, Cate and Violet’s parents had them cloned and a chip was implanted in the original daughters, wirelessly transmitting each of their memories to the lab where the backup of the children remained in stasis. Violet’s clone is a perfect copy. She behaves the same way, remembers everything Violet did, and to the Benson family, it’s like she never died. But one day Violet never shows up to school and Cate learns that a girl in her grade has been murdered and suspicion turns towards the Benson family and their returned daughter.
I’ve never felt that I was particularly skilled at writing plot summaries but this book specifically is putting up a struggle. There’s just so much happening! It starts off with Cate and Violet’s classmate Samantha being murdered and Violet is under suspicion, but it’s not really a murder mystery because then more plot happens and underlying machinations happening with the cloning facility and there’s an anti-cloning quasi resistance group and also Cate’s parents are politicians so there’s that familial struggle element and there’s a boy she likes so romance subplot… so much happening. I found it hard to follow sometimes. Multiple double-crosses happen, we have a briefly mentioned chemical warfare backstory that comes into play later on and peppered throughout all of this is Cate swooning over her crush, Jaxson.
Surprisingly, I didn’t hate the book. I for the most part enjoyed it, although in a very shallow way. The more I think about it, the more I feel I should have hated it, but it never amassed enough effort for me to care one way or the other. I’m a master at the backhanded compliment, I know. The part of the book that I felt worked the least for me was the relationship between Cate and clone Violet.
The phrase “in late out early” is often times referenced for writing introductions. You want to start your book as far into the “action” as you can with it still making sense, and end the scene early enough that your readers are left wanting more. This book started a little too late and left a little too early. We start off in the drive after Violet’s funeral to pick up clone Violet. From there we meet her and then there’s a time jump of 5 years and Cate and clone Violet are in high school the day Samantha is pronounced murdered. The relationship between Cate and Violet and then the relationship between Cate and clone Violet is what drives this book. Cate will make decisions based off of her feelings towards her dead sister’s clone or her sister proper. But we never get to see Cate and Violet interact, don’t get to see the awkwardness immediately following clone Violet being brought into the house, the angry fights that must have ensued for a grieving and confused not yet teenaged Cate being told to pretend that her sister didn’t die. Cate tells us these things happened, sure, but we never get to see them. So when all I have to go off of for Cate and clone Violet’s relationship is how I see them interacting after Violet’s under suspicion of murder? I don’t really understand where Cate is coming from in her decision making.
Falls the Shadow is a perfectly acceptable YA book. It is a fairly standard near future quasi dystopian complete with teenage love interests and emotions. I don’t have anything against the book or think it’s a waste of time to read it, but it also didn’t do anything I hadn’t seen before. I appreciate the cause of Cate’s “stand up against the establishment” actions is based off of her relationship with her sister and her sister’s clone, but wish we could have seen more of that actual relationship instead of being told about it. Sometimes a book is unremarkable but that’s okay.