October 16, 2013

Living on the edge

By Swati Avasthi
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Chasing Shadows opens with an act of violence that is startling in its realism. When Corey and his twin sister Holly are shot by a stranger, he dies and she is left in a coma, straddling the surreal Shadowlands and her real life in a hospital bed. Savitri—Corey’s girlfriend and Holly’s best friend—is racked with guilt, leading her to take more and more dangerous chances. She wants to save Holly and find justice for Corey, but her self-sacrificing nature leads her right to the edge, which is where these “freerunners” like to be. That overconfidence comes at a great cost.

Author Swati Avasthi (Split) teamed up with artist Craig Phillips on this book—Holly and Savitri are comics-obsessed, and portions of the story are told in panel illustrations. The drawings add nicely to the story and help to literally illustrate Holly’s descent from grief into mental illness.

Because it has elements of mystery, thriller, graphic novel and coming-of-age story, Chasing Shadows sometimes feels adrift among genres. The characters practice freerunning, a street sport similar to parkour, where vaulting over walls and obstacles gymnastically is commonplace, but the sport isn’t described in depth. Corey dies in the first scene, but we don’t get to know him through the surviving characters, which feels like a missed opportunity.

These are not deal-breaking issues, though. When Savitri and Holly team up to solve the murder, their changing relationship packs as much suspense as a whodunit. And the book is brutally frank about mental illness and our ability to refuse to recognize a loved one’s deterioration until it’s too late to intervene. Chasing Shadows has some flaws, but it features diamond-sharp storytelling and terrific artwork.

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Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows

By Swati Avasthi
ISBN 9780375863424

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