I don’t recall how I found her books, and I only remember small bits of them here and there—YA horror or thriller, I’d call them. Stories of what turned out to be witchcraft and other elements of the occult. Lois Duncan.
She was a good writer, but I had no idea what I’d started reading until I ran across a term in one of the books. “Astral projection.” From what I could tell, it was supposedly like that moment people die in books when they see their own bodies before their spirit heads heavenward or… not so heavenward. Except… from what I could tell… you didn’t have to die to do this kind of out-of-body experience.
That’s when I decided to figure out just what this thing was. I went to B. Dalton Booksellers at the mall, went to the “spiritual” section—because that’s where the clerk said I’d find it—and pulled down a book. I flipped through it, not really understanding that, either. Nonplussed, I took the book to my dad and asked if he knew anything about it.
Well, needless to say, I got an education in astral projection, demons, and the occult.
The next time I went to the library and saw a new Lois Duncan book I decided that I wasn’t interested, thank-you-very-much. Can you blame me?
Fast forward thirty-five years or so.
I sat at a table where an eager author with sparkling eyes and a heart for teens told about her book and the reason she wrote it. She talked about the pull of Wicca on young people and how no one seemed to understand just how dangerous it all was.
Her passion radiated from her. That woman was Carol Alwood, author of The Good Shadows, and when I heard about her book, I was sold. This needed to be published. Yesterday. Because…
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When Evil Pretends to Be Good, Terrible Things Happen
How can a book that has everything against it be so good? Against it? Oh, yeah. Starting with being written in first-person/present tense (can’t stand it), full of teenager “luuuuv” (oh, gag), and angsty teenager attitudes (save me from the misery!), this book is probably the last book I usually would have chosen to read.
So glad I ignored my personal prejudices and requested a free review copy when it became available. The topic sold me. Do I love supernatural stories of people dabbling in the occult so much that I’d ignore things I didn’t like just to be able to read it?
Hardly. I just so firmly believe that books like this are vital in today’s world that if this book was even half as good as I hoped it would be, it would be worth my time.
Oh, me of little faith.
Seriously, The Good Shadows has everything going for it, starting with an unlikeable and yet relatable and lovable protagonist. Yes, I am aware that those words are contradictory. However, they are true. Violet makes you squirm for her, cheer for her, and want to shake her in turn. She’s a strong character with deep, layered motivations. Her friends, enemies, and even her parents offer insights into who she is at her core and she offers insights into them.
The plot shines light onto darkness.
Even more than great characters, the plot itself has brilliant nuances and facets. Bit by bit we see how someone could justify and then dive head-first into something that promises to solve all of Violet’s problems (or at least allow her to hide from them). Her motivations for diving into things that naturally frighten her are both deep and silly. She wants the boy, so she’ll play with something horrifying to attempt to get him. That may seem ridiculous, but
- It’s what teen girls do sometimes when their worth isn’t solidly rooted somewhere else and
- It demonstrates how fearsome it is to seek help outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the first pages, you see how a web of deception becomes a net used to entrap Violet and hold her captive. Alwood even makes you (or me, anyway) resist attempts to help save Violet from herself because of how it’s handled. I never thought I’d cheer for a girl getting away from what might have prevented a deeper slide into the occult.
Alwood is that good. Because you see… without her personal yielding to Jesus alone, we all know any attempts at “rescue” will likely drive her even further away, and the author not only recognizes but demonstrates that well.
Do I think that means parents should let their kids spiral down the road to self-destruction?
But through fiction, Carol Alwood can demonstrate to her audience just how scary it is when teens act like toddlers and demand that they can “do it myself.”
Alwood shows respect for the intelligence of young people to see their own foolish actions for what they are and turn to what is right. And to do that, she needs to allow them to face the consequences of those actions.
The spiritual elements of this book are strong and well-placed. Without ever becoming preachy, she lays out truth in the best places, shows truth misused, and strips the justification of such misused truth bare.
I expected to find spiritual elements I disagreed with. I didn’t. Instead, I found a story draped in the robes of pagan worship and watched as the author crafted each line with the skill of a master wordsmith until she’d stripped away the elegance of those ugly, demonic rituals and laid them bare at the foot of a blood-soaked cross.
Who do I recommend The Good Shadows for? Every young person who can handle the darker elements of it. I’d give it to my fifteen-year-old daughter, but I’m not sure she’s ready for it (she doesn’t “do” dark well). Parents, teachers, youth leaders, anyone who knows and loves a young person needs to read this book if they want to understand the pressure and the lure of what are deceptively called “the good shadows.”
CAVEAT about The Good Shadows:
The book includes realistic (I don’t know if they’re ACTUAL but they are realistic) rituals and spells to demonstrate what kinds of things the girl is getting into. Normally, I’d be opposed to having that in fiction for my child to read (we’re not talking Harry Potter silliness like “explelliarmous” or “lumos” kinds of pseudo-Latin goofiness). However, with the care Alwood goes into in order to expose that darkness, I was only mildly bothered by it (and I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of thing).
Book: The Good Shadows
Author: Carol Alwood
Genre: Young adult romance with a supernatural twist
Release Date: January 10, 2020
She believed him when he told her some Shadows were good.
When sixteen-year-old Violet Blackstone seeks to belong outside of her Christian community, she opens doors to a dark world she doesn’t understand.
Her parents’ secret separation and conflict at church fuel her desire to find something more. She sneaks out to a party at Chuckanut House and meets Dakota Selby, the mysterious new guy at Bellingham High School who reads her tarot cards and tells her she doesn’t belong.
When she discovers his family owns Chuckanut House, she plans to hold her parents’ twenty-fifth-wedding-anniversary party there to reunite them in the beautiful mansion surrounded by forest and ocean—and to spend more time with Dakota to prove she fits into his world.
Violet works her way into Dakota’s life and must face the secrets and Shadows buried deep within Chuckanut House and her own family’s past. Entrenched in darkness, Violet searches for light and love as she battles Shadows threatening to capture her soul.
When her life falls apart, where will she turn?