Have you ever tried to control your dreams? Or wished that you could realize that you’re in a dream while you’re dreaming? The kids in The Shadows attempt this. They theorize that once you recognize that you are in a dream, you can control the dream. You can make it less scary, or even scarier, or even join other dreams. You can even murder in it. Charlie Crabtree has convinced his group that once they kill someone in their lucid dream, then they will escape into the dream world. Can it actually happen?
Paul Adams must return to his hometown after his mother, who is suffering from dementia, falls at home. He has avoided returning home since he left for college twenty-five years ago, due mostly to the traumatic events he experienced while attending high school. His longtime best friend, James, was a regular target for bullies, until Charlie Crabtree and Billy Roberts come to their aid. Since then, the four are together whenever they can be; Paul and James even start to keep dream journals as Charlie and Billy have been for a while. Charlie teaches them how to recognize that you are in a dream and how to manipulate your dreams, which James becomes fascinated with, but Paul remains skeptical and unconvinced of Charlie’s ability. Eventually, Paul lifts out of the group, leaving James to Charlie and Billy. Paul vows never to return after things in the area go horribly wrong, leaving two kids dead and no one held accountable. Could it have been Charlie’s lucid dreaming? Is it possible that Charlie’s vindictive plan actually worked? What happened to Charlie, Billy and James?
Twenty-five years later, Paul returns to spend time with his mother during her last weeks. With his mother in hospice care at the local hospital, Paul is free to explore his childhood home and discover more about his mother than he ever knew. He finds several boxes in the attic containing articles showing that Charlie Crabtree’s lucid dreaming sparked a following online. Paul even finds newspaper articles of similar murders. Could Charlie be responsible for all of the murders, or are they copycats? Why did his mother keep these articles in her attic? The longer Paul stays in his hometown, more and more strange events happen. Someone knocks on his door in the middle of the night. There is a glimpse of a person in the woods behind his house. A dream doll is slipped through his mail slot. Is it Charlie, or Billy, or James? Are the answers lying in the creepy woods behind his house or with his ailing mother in the hospital?
Alex North does a phenomenal job in creating The Shadows. It is captivating from the beginning, never gets dull, and unique in its storyline. I found the characters vivid and relatable and reads quickly. I was not tempted to skip a single sentence and found it difficult to put this book down. The chapters alternate between adolescent Paul, to adult Paul, and to a detective working on a recent murder that is similar to the one Charlie is suspected of twenty-five years ago. My only criticism is of the use of colons in this novel, which are not necessary. All of the clues are right in front of you, but the twists and turns throughout the story will keep the reader guessing right until the very end. This book is a must-have for any bookcase. The Shadows is spooky as well as a murder mystery that will put the most observant reader to the test.