cover image Shadow People

Shadow People

Joyce McDonald. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32662-9

McDonald's (Comfort Creek) chilling premise and credible depiction of the gang dynamic--propelled by fear--will keep the pages turning, but the novel's frequently shifting perspectives among the five principal characters overwhelm the story. When four angry, isolated teens living in rural northwestern New Jersey coincidentally come together one night in an abandoned camp building, they form a strange bond. They begin to commit crimes together, starting with shoplifting and escalating to acts of arson, one of which kills a homeless man. Gabriel, the main character, moved with his family from New York City after his brother's murder; at night, he is haunted by four strange ""dark faceless figures"" that he calls Shadow People (their symbolism goes unexplained). Lydia hates her parents, a survivalist father who collects gas masks and a mother addicted to prescription drugs. Alec collects guns, and Hollis is the geeky mastermind behind their plans, abandoned by his father. Attractive Gem, who remains outside the group, starts dating Gabriel, but becomes the group's last target. The novel begins with the quartet's torching of Gem's aunt's store, then flashes back to 10 weeks earlier, building up to the event. There are some memorable moments here, as when Lydia recalls how her father tested the family's skills by locking them in the basement with tear gas, and when Gabriel and his sister reminisce about their dead brother. But ultimately, with so many strands to the story, readers can't explore any one of them fully. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)