The Shadows was the absolute perfect book to reintroduce myself to Middle Grade. It was chock full of magical realism. I mean, we have talking cats, magical glasses, pictures that are actually portals, and a large creepy old house.
Olive is an awesome protagonist. She's not your typical girl-who-can-everything, but instead, she's not so good at math though her parents are both math lovers and geniuses, she can never seem to remember where she leaves things, and she's a little clumsy. All these "flaws" make her a perfect person for the story too. It just wouldn't be the same if you had some fearless go-getter going about the same adventures.
The talking cats are also fantastic characters. I love all their different personalities, but I don't want to spoil them too much for you...
Olive's parents are also great. I'm not sure if this happens in a lot of MG as it's been quite some time since I read any before this one, but they were actually around. You barely ever see that in YA and it was a nice little change of pace. Plus, they're adorable. Their romantic talk is all mathy and weird, but also fun to read. Also, they're not evil parents or anything of the sort. They're nice parents any kid would love to have without being giant pushovers either.
The whole idea of the story was great too. The idea of life inside paintings is magical and Jacqueline does a fantastic job with it. Also, the mystery was done rather well. I was constantly wondering who I could trust, so I can only imagine how Olive must have felt! The pacing was perfect. I was never bored, but I also wasn't overwhelmed by action action action.
Final Thoughts: I absolutely adored The Shadows and I look forward to reading the rest of the series soon. This book has the perfect balance of action/adventure and mystery. Plus, talking cats. You can't say no to talking cats.