If you know me, you know this isn't a normal read for me. I'm easily spooked (I still contend that Jurassic Park is a scary movie.), and this book is SCARY. Shadow people are probably the most terrifying paranormal creature. If you don't believe me, listen to episode 59 of "Timesuck with Dan Cummins." But if I was going to read a paranormal thriller, it would be by Nicole MacCarron.
This book gave me all the feels. Sure, it gave me vivid nightmares about nonkillable zombies, but Nicole masterfully balances terror and horror with humor and heartfelt moments. In Hazel and her five classmates (ALL GIRLS. I don't think a boy is mentioned outside of a Coach, teacher, absent family member, or ghost. Bechdel Test Approved!), Nicole creates a diverse cast that includes both persons of color and queer characters. AND Hazel is a fat, talented athlete! Most of the girls I competed with as a teen were like Hazel, and I'd love to see this represented more in YA books.
These girls have clashing personalities and ideas. Some are more abrupt and some are more nurturing, but they are all well-developed with backstory, action, and dialogue. In their own unique ways, they comfort, mourn, and puzzle out solutions together. With them, I laughed, I cried, I had nightmares.
Nicole utilizes both plot and prose to create a well-paced book. There is just enough set up to make you care when all hell breaks loose. And it escalates quickly--it is a zombie apocalypses, after all--but then it deescalates, giving the reader (and characters) a short break while suspense and tension builds through subplots about friendship, sisters, and crushes (all of which I'm a sucker for.)
If you like "Hocus Pocus" and "Dawn of the Dead," I think you'll love "Hazel's Shadow."
BONUS: The sequel, "Hazel's Mirror," is being released tomorrow, October 21, 2021 and was edited by yours truly, so I can tell you it does not disappoint.
"Hazel's Shadow" is available on Amazon and Indigo (Kobo). Check out Nicole's website for more information.