Review: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Saturday, January 2, 2016
Title: Shallow Graves
Author: Kali Wallace
Genre: supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Published: expected January 26 2015
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3.5/5

For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace. 

This was a weird, creepy,  and memorable book for me; it took a few chapters to hook me but once I was in, I could not put it down. If you're looking for a pop culture comparison, it and main character Breezy bring to mind Dexter (a killer hunting killers) meets Supernatural (evil monsters in a modern era). It's a fun premise and makes for an engaging debut. Shallow Graves is a curious and original mix of contemporary and creepy and for the most part of those nearly 370 pages, it works quite well.

Breezy is the best part of the novel; her voice is real, authentic, and dry. She thinks and feels like a, forgive me, living teen. Her struggle to understand what happened as well as to understand what she now is are the two plotlines that make up the story. The other characters weren't as defined as Breezy, but had potential. I liked the inclusion of Zeke and Jake (without adding a romance, even!) but there wasn't much characterization done for them or for Rain/Ingrid/Violet. This was definitely Breezy's show and though she carried it, they could have used some more time and attention. 

This is definitely in the vein of Nova Ren Suma -- there's monsters and mayhem and magic but there's not a whole lot of definitive answers or reasons to be found. There's no grand reveal or worldbuilding; in Wallace's created world, there are hidden monsters and somehow a human girl became one of them.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of resolution to be found -- the book just kinda wanders off after a minor confrontation. There's still definitely possibilities in the air for the characters and the story but the author doesn't committ to anything. 

Shallow Graves is more introspective than gory; more contemplative than horror. There are moments of genuine creepiness to be found, but this would be a good read for fans of novels along the lines of M.R. Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts from 2014. Memorable, supernatural, and different, Kali Wallace's  YA debut was more than enough to make me lookout for whatever her next novel may be.  


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