When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Tor Teen
Reviewed by: Courtney DeWitt
Fiction Addict Scorecard: A
A great novel that leaks and invades your mind. It leaks into all the crevices of your own experiences, of the experiences others have told you, and of the experiences only imagined or dreamed. A great novel would, for those with a mind open to it, cause inner debate and possibly change itself. When I Cast Your Shadow is a great novel.
Ruby and Everett are twins who have felt loss. The loss of their beloved older brother, Dashiell to be specific. What appears to be an overdose seems to be instead hiding truths. Truths that gnaw at Ruby, although she doesn’t have the knowledge yet to cement her suspicions. Then her Dash-dot-dot comes back to her. He tells her that he can come back to be with her and Ever, if only she lets him reside in her body. A ghost of an older brother possessing his younger sister. But when Everett finds out about the possession of his twin, he knows Dash’s intentions may not be so benevolent as Ruby so easily believes them to be. Everett would rather Dash take care of unfinished business in his body and leave his innocent sister alone. What neither twin realize is just how sinister the world of ghosts really is. And that Dash is bringing both of them into a danger that could cost them control of their own bodies or even their lives.
I dove into Sarah Porter’s newest Young Adult novel with anticipation. Lost Voices, a tale of mermaids, enchanted me. Vassa in the Night was an adventure that stoked my imagination and gave a great twist on a classic story. When I Cast Your Shadow is different. Though Porter’s other works have a permanent home on my bookshelf, this story haunted me (pun intended). The vivid imagery and detail brought images to mind I have scarcely seen in recent reads. The prose with which Porter writes has clearly matured, surfacing my own memories and provoking thought as I read.
Ruby, a sixteen year old, is so clearly naive and innocent. And I adore this. I’ve read criticism on a girl this age being so trusting in an obviously (to the reader) dangerous older brother. However, I had this same trust and loving abandonment for those I held close to me in my life. I know of others who were just as unaware of dangers that are so obvious to those on the outside. Many, many abusive relationships are like this. Ruby is realistic, and I know this for a fact as I was once so much like her.
Is her relationship, are any of the relationships in this novel, healthy? No. They aren’t supposed to be. In fact, many relationships in real life (romantic and unromantic) are rife with manipulation, selfishness, deceit, and harm. Does this mean that the person causing harm is incapable of love or does not love the person they’re harming? I adore that thoughts like this are provoked from this novel. I adore that Porter clearly thinks of these things. So often we can think of the world in black and white. A person who does bad= they are 100% bad. We compare people to apples and oranges, when in fact, humans are so much more complex. Does this excuse the bad? Of course not. A fermented mind can taste sweet when layered with other flavors and still be toxic.
I see this novel as I saw Stephen King’s early works. Creeptastic to be sure. (Spoiler: creepy little girl speaking through an old drunkard’s body) But Porter is not just waxing poetic about a fantasy world. She’s also metaphorically and deliberately diving into the psychology of addiction, obsession, passion, and death. She brings up hard topics that many of us with no experience of these situations will cringe away from and call problematic. But for those of us with experiences with grief, a broken home, unhealthy obsession, and/or addiction, we will resonate with one of these characters. The violent imagery will take a backseat to the stuff that haunts us in real life. If anything, this ghost world can simply be a metaphor itself of the personas we put on to try to hide the pain and denial on the inside.
This novel isn’t meant to be cheery or redeem its characters entirely of their sins. Porter challenges readers to look past facades. To see that we as humans are not the sum of a few Tweets or charming quips. We are so much more complex. We all have the capability to hurt, to make horrible decisions. We all have the capability to be redeemed and be loved, too. There are good novels that tell a story and leave you contented. But the great novels? Those are the ones that haunt you and change you, if even just a little. When I Cast Your Shadow will be haunting me for months to come.