Shadow Girls by Carol Birch #bookreview

Manchester, 1960s. Sally, a cynical 15-year-old schoolgirl, is much too clever for her own good. When partnered with her best friend, Pamela – a mouthy girl who no-one else much likes – Sally finds herself unable to resist the temptation of rebellion. The pair play truant, explore forbidden areas of the old school and – their favourite – torment posh Sylvia Rose, with her pristine uniform and her beautiful voice that wins every singing prize.

One day, Sally ventures (unauthorised, of course) up to the greenhouse on the roof alone. Or at least she thinks she’s alone, until she sees Sylvia on the roof too. Sally hurries downstairs, afraid of Sylvia snitching, but Sylvia appears to be there as well.

Amidst the resurgence of ghost stories and superstition among the girls, a tragedy is about to occur, one that will send Sally more and more down an uncanny rabbit hole…

My thoughts on Shadow Girls

I’m not going to lie, the first thing that attracted me about Shadow Girls was the cover. I found it arresting. And, when I read the description, it seemed to fit perfectly. And the book seemed a perfect fit for me. I love books set in the sixties. And, in the last few years, I’ve really started to enjoy ghost stories. A perfect fit. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, for me, quite a lot. I’m not sure if my brain was calling out for something different because my last couple of reads have been so dark, but I really struggled to get into Shadow Girls. And, in all honesty, I never truly did (though I did make it to the end). It started off well. The atmosphere of young girls on the cusp of womanhood, rebelling against authority in 60s Manchester. Sally and Pamela pushing boundaries and pushing back on ‘good girls’ like Sylvia. Add in an old school and seances, and I could feel the tension building.

The problem came when the tension never seemed to go anywhere. And neither did the story for a long time. There were a couple of significant acts at the beginning and at the end. In between, it felt like we were building to something that never materialised. Things that I felt would amount to ‘something’, would increase the spookiness level, never came to anything. As a result, very much like Sally, who had lost her way, so did I as a reader. I didn’t seem to be going anywhere. And I didn’t like it.

I also didn’t like any of the characters (which anyone who reads my reviews regularly will know is a big deal for me). I found Sally shallow and annoying and Pamela (whose story seemed to have so much potential), poorly used – a caricature rather than a character. Possibly the only character that really interested me by the end was the school and the secrets it held. Again, though, that wasn’t explored.

All in all, then, this wasn’t the book for me. A shame, but it happens! Have you read it – what did you think? 3/5 stars.

Emma

Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

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