Review Detail

Young Adult Indie 258
Action-packed fusion of haunted house and zombie horror
(Updated: September 24, 2021)
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Hazel has been able to see ghosts since she was a kid, but the most frightening ghost (or creature?) she's seen is the one in her grandmother's old house. The dark shadow there always seemed to smile, and as her grandmother's health weakens, she believes the shadow is to blame. Before she can do any real investigating, the unexpected strikes: zombies are taking over the town and out to kill. When Hazel and her friends are forced to take sanctuary in the very house the shadow dwells, Hazel will have to fight on every front to keep her friends and herself safe.

What I Loved:

HAZEL'S SHADOW has such a cool premise. I'm usually neutral when it comes to liking zombie stories, but I love a good haunted house horror. This story combines the two in a unique, creative, and just plain fun way. It had the perfect amount of campy touches that kept the story from getting too dark, though there are definitely serious themes of grief, self-doubt, and terrifying internal fears happening.

Hazel is a highly relatable protagonist with authentic and mostly positive fat representation. I loved seeing a teen girl wrestler in a YA book. While there are a good amount of sport stories in YA, it isn't very common to see a female wrestler. At times, it did feel like Hazel veered into territory where she was set on proving she was a 'good' kind of fat (athletic and muscular) rather than a 'bad' kind of fat (slow and unable to kick butt in a survival situation). While this is definitely an authentic logic that can stem from internalized fatphobia, I wish Hazel would have been able to confront that false dichotomy a little more on page. However, this is the first in a series, so it may be something we'll see more of in a later book. Overall, I still absolutely enjoyed her character and think it was solid representation.

What Left Me Wanting More:

Hazel spends most of the story with a group of several girls from her high school. Most of the secondary characters outside of Hazel's sister felt a little flat, and I had a hard time distinguishing who was who. Outside of Hazel and her sister, I didn't feel like I really got to know and understand the other characters, which was a shame because I would have loved more about Jen especially. Sometimes larger casts work, but in this instance, I think the story may have been better served with less secondary characters.

Final Thoughts:

If action-packed, girls-kicking-butt horror is your jam, I highly recommend HAZEL'S SHADOW. The combination of zombie and haunted house horror absolutely worked for me, and I'm excited to see what the sequel brings.

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