Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

First, I want to say that I hope you all had a great day yesterday, and I hope you read some feminist books, books written by women, and/or books with awesome, kick-ass, diverse female characters in honor of International Women's Day. It's so important to celebrate women and female achievements and to celebrate how far we've come in terms of achieving gender equality. But the fight's not over yet! Let's continue the fight, one step at a time.

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Source: Bought
Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.
I have been waiting for this book for what feels like forever. When the release date was pushed back, I was like "why?????" The Shadow Cabinet is the third book in the series, and the second book finished with a huge cliffhanger. The book picks right back up from the second book, and one thing I was so grateful for was that it gave just enough background information for someone who doesn't quite remember the previous book(s) to either remember or to be able to get by, while also not being too obvious about it or making it annoying for a reader who remembers everything from the previous books. The book's pace is fast at times, slow at times but it's consistently engaging, so overall, it goes by quickly. There's a lot of building tension, and the interactions between characters are really interesting, especially as it's affected by what happened at the end of the last book. The stakes are even higher this time around, though that's not necessarily known until near the end. Everything is revealed slowly and in pieces. I didn't get as many feels as I was expecting, but I almost like it better that way. The book isn't perfect, but I'm extremely happy with it, and I can't wait to read the last book! (4/5 stars)

I've always loved Rory. She's not perfect, but I like that she's herself. She's spunky, she's sometimes a bit weird, she talks about strange moments at times (like all her Grandma stories this time around), and sometimes she listens, often she does what she wants and what she thinks is right. I think she's a fabulously written character. She's well-rounded, and she feels like someone I'd know in real life. My only problem with her this time around is that I wish it didn't make it seem as if her only/main motivation was to get XX (not naming because of spoilers) back. While it makes sense, and I can understand that motivation, from the view of someone who's never loved someone else romantically, I wish that there had been other motivations. They were close, but they weren't even that close, but it felt played up as if they were, as if it were a matter of her own life or death. If there were other reasons for much of what she did (besides her own safety, of course), it would have been great, but Rory as a character fell short of that. It was disappointing.

In terms of diversity, the series is great with the male:female ratio, and I do think that for the most part, besides the above, the characters are taken more individually and are made human that way. I don't really know how I feel about Freddie though. On the one hand, I love her sense of individualism and her boldness, but at the same time, it's hard not to see her more as a plot device, at least in The Shadow Cabinet. She's the means through which they get a lot of their leads and information in the latter half of the book, but beyond that, we know very little about her, and she's more of an aside. I hope she'll come to life more in the next book. She is a great asset to the team, but she could also become an even greater asset to the book.

Boo and Callum are also thrown aside quite a bit in this book, and I was disappointed. It makes sense in the context of the story, I guess, but I really enjoyed the interactions between the group in the previous books, and I was hoping for more of that in this book. The Shadow Cabinet definitely had a middle-book feel, where much of this story was spent resolving what occurred in the last book and then on setting up the events of the next book. For that reason, I believe the characters suffered.

In terms of other areas of diversity, there is very little racial diversity. It's basically just Boo if my memory serves me correctly. There is also nobody that I can remember that's homosexual/not heterosexual. Now, I don't know how diverse London is but considering it's such a big city, I would imagine it would be much more diverse! I imagine there'd be a ton of racially diverse people and people with different sexual identities who have near-death experiences. I imagine a ton of ghosts would be not-white or non-heterosexual. I imagine there's so much more! The world is made up of different types of people--I wish that was represented more and that this series wasn't so white-washed and straight. I mean, maybe I'm wrong and London is really like that, but I kind of doubt it.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Shadow Cabinet. It was pretty clear that it was a middle-of-the-series book, but it sets up the events of the next book very well. Though the pacing is a bit wonky and all over the place, the plot itself is engaging and interesting. The book suffers from the same lack of general diversity as the rest of the series, and I'd say it's a mildly feminist read. Some parts had me raging, while other sections had me wanting to shout praise all day long.

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