Enshadowed  - Kelly Creagh

My dog’s name is Jake. He’s mostly Border Collie, and even though he’s a mutt of some sort and his parents were siblings and his dad/uncle left them when he was a puppy he’s one of the best dog we’ve ever had. He’s happy, friendly, doesn’t hurt small animals (our outside cat is his best bud), great around kids, never begs for food (except cheese, he loves him some cheese), and is so lovable we always wonder how we lucked out with him.

A few months ago, however, it was decided that he might need a friend for when no one is there and he’s just hanging around the house. As luck would have it a family friend had been looking for a home for their smaller pup. We went to see her and she was very sweet and cuddly. She was also still a puppy at about 10 months. The owners said that there wasn’t any real hurry to find her a home so if this pup and Jake didn’t get along, they could take her back to find her another place.

We brought her home and Jake went ballistic. After all, he’d been the only dog at our house and wasn’t he enough for us? Dogs elsewhere had never been a problem but this little upstart with her wagging tail was at his house playing with his humans. We knew that could be a problem so we let them get to know each other a bit more. Extenuating circumstances meant we had roughly eight days to know if we could keep her or not. Jake cooled off around her but we started realizing that the new pup had some behavioral issues. We understood that she was a puppy but she was extremely jealous of Jake. No matter how much attention I gave her, if I so much as patted Jake, she went nuts. She growled at Jake, she growled at me, she took Jake’s toys and wouldn’t let him near his own food and water dishes and it didn’t matter how we tried to teach her or correct her behavior, she wasn’t having any of it.

I also noticed a big difference in Jake. Where he was happy and playful he was now stressed out and wouldn’t even try for his favorite stuffed raccoon, which was unheard of before. The real turning point came on day seven. I was sitting on the couch giving Jake a much deserved petting when the pup was let in the door. She came around, saw us, growled, launched herself up, and bit my hand. Jake acted swiftly and with nary a “by your leave” had her on her back and saying uncle. He didn’t try to bite or hurt her because he knew he’d get in trouble for that but it still made me realize that this new situation wasn’t happening. The previous owners took her back with understanding.*

As soon as we got home, I went inside, hugged Jake, and apologized for the week. He looked around us for a bit, saw us pack away the pen (we’d been using it to keep her in overnight. Jake, as a big boy, had not been in need of it for some time) and immediately his ears perked up. I held out his raccoon and he was back to being playful, lovey Jake: proud to be him and closer than ever with his buddy, the cat, after the shared torture.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Isabel in Nevermore is like Jake before the puppy: she knew she was pretty, she loved being a cheerleader, she got along well with her caring family and she didn’t apologize for these things.**

Isobel in Enshadowed, however, is Jake after the pup: sullen, no longer finds joy in former activities, walks through life like a shadow.

Even if he wasn’t my dog, I’d feel sympathy for Jake because there was a force brought into his life that is hell-bent on wrecking every facet. I feel next to no sympathy for Isobel because her condition has been brought on by losing a guy she knew for a couple months and liked for only several weeks. I know it’s become clichéd to reference Twilight but Isobel, as closely as I can say, took the Bella Swan Dive.

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I felt worse for Bella, though, cause she’d known Edward for FAR longer.

All the things I liked about Isobel were gone for the first three quarters of the book. That made me sad, and not a little frustrated. If it had focused more on her behavior being the result of the weird crap she’d been through, I’d have been right there with her but she makes no nevermind about all the creepy stuff and focuses completely on the fact that Varen isn’t there. At least she’s making direct efforts to set things right but her behavior was enough to deduct half a star.

Varen. Varen was not here. He made small little “appearances” throughout but it either a) wasn’t actually Varen or b) was sad/angry Varen which was a legit response to his situation but is spoilery to detail. Varen’s absence was definitely felt. If we could have visited him throughout, I would have been much more satisfied with this part of the story. That’s the other half of the star.

Gwen, however, I loved. She spoke her mind, called Isobel on things, stood by her friend and was pushy and flawed and awesome. I would read a novel that solely featured Gwen.

Though he didn’t show up often, Pinfeathers had amazing presence in this book. When he was on the page, and didn’t necessarily say anything, Creagh still did a wonderful job of conveying his presence in Isobel’s life, real or dreaming. I wanted to hug him.

The story wasn’t as deep as in Nevermore but it was typical for Middle Book Syndrome. The action didn’t pick up until later but I appreciated that Creagh didn’t give Isobel absentee parents. Isobel’s family is affected by what she does and I’ll give it to her that she feels genuine remorse and guilt. I really love her relationship with her younger brother. It was caring and nitpicky and real.

I’ll read the third in the series when it comes out later this year but with a little reserve. I dove headfirst into Enshadowed because, in shelves filled with YA insta-love, shallowness, absentee parents, dull heroes, and I-think-I’m-so-plain-but-actually-a-heretofore-unheard-of-type-of-stunning crap Nevermore was a bright spot. Its sequel left me a little wrong-footed but I’m hoping gloomy Isobel will cast aside her personal annoying puppy and the third will be much better.

*(For those of you who get titchy and say adopting is forever and not just a whim I’d like to say that Jake is family and that pup wasn’t in any danger whatsoever. It’s not a case of “you didn’t do your research”, it’s a case of “these personalities do not mesh well and there’s a very real chance that someone’s going to get hurt.”)

**(Clarification: Jake’s never been a cheerleader, though he does like wearing his Thunder Jacket.)