DNF: When I Cast Your Shadow

The small potion of this book that I did make it through gave me some very strong sensations, namely, disgust and confusion. And not the general confusion that I feel everyday when I wake up and stumble around my apartment, pre-caffeine intake. It was the kind of confusion that complex mathematical word problems engender in my brain. I found myself wondering whether the confusion was intentional or an organic result of how the story was written.

But aside from any critiques of style, plotting, characterization, or even logic, there is the very simple fact that this is a very creepy book about incest.



Surprise!

Seriously though, I feel anxious just writing about thinking about reading this.


Anyway, the gist of When I Cast Your Shadow is that Ruby and Everett's older brother, Dashiell, died of an overdose, except Ruby keeps seeing him in her dreams. Dashiell created inexplicably infuriating nicknames for everyone in the family: he is Dash Dot Dot, Ruby is "Ruby-Ru" or "Ruby Slippers" or just "Slippers," and Everett is "Never Ever." The characters only refer to each other by these names and it made me vaguely homicidal. If you didn't already suspect that there was some serious emotional trauma in this family, one page of "Ruby-Ru"s and "Dash Dot Dot"s addressing each other as such despite being older than three certainly cements it. Dad just wants to accept that Dashiell was a drug addict and died from an OD and move on with life, but Ruby can't let her brother go. She goes on and on and ON about how much she loves him and how handsome he was and how she can't live without him so good thing he's visiting her in her dreams because that's not ominous at all, right?

Pro tip: If a dead person is talking to you in your dreams, it's never good. Never. Nope. And it's definitely not sweet/romantic/dreamy.

I gave up a few chapters in because the awful nickname trading made me feel like scratching out my eyeballs was a good life choice, and also because I don't want to read anything where one of the narrators is actively in love with someone that she knows is her biological brother. This is also why I don't watch Game of Thrones, but that's neither here nor there. Bonus incest: Everett also seems sexually interested in his sister: he follows her around New York and witnesses her having a mental break. She cuts her hair (original!) and gets new clothes that make her suddenly look like the "chubby that's sexy." I almost wish that I did Booktube reviews because the majority of my reactions to this book are facial. I just ... it's so hard to express the revulsion I feel, not just because of the topic, but because it's portrayed as a tee-hee-aren't-I-so-arty! way. Don't get me wrong--it is possible to  handle this subject well. See Elana K. Arnold's Infandous if you don't believe me. Even The Cresswell Plot, which I didn't enjoy at all, gave characters the awareness that their incestuous feelings for each other were wrong on a fundamental level. In When I Cast Your Shadow, no one thinks anything of it.

I did skim, and evidently the whole "woo I am in your dreams, sister mine!" schtick was just a prelude to the very dead Dashiell coming back and possessing his sister's body, which she is totally cool with (ew!). Alas! There is another very bad dead person who is pursuing Dashiell from the Kingdom of the Dead and he hops inside of Everett's body. There is some spiritual body-swapping, and Dashiell rewards Everett for being his new ride by letting him have sex with Dashiell's ex-girlfriend, Paige.

Wait.

No.

First of all, Paige had no idea that Dashiell was inside of Everett and that she was being pimped out by her dead ex-boyfriend. She had no way of consenting to Dashiell's presence, and therefore, Dash and Everett committed rape. Secondly, isn't that still incest because technically Everett was having sex with both Paige and Dashiell present. And afterward he's like "Gee, maybe that was a bad idea."

Anyway, it turns out that Dashiell killed himself to spare his family, because he recognized that he was a truly evil and twisted person from the womb, so overdosing was supposed to "spare them." Oh, sure, and let's bring addiction into the narrative by casting it as the way mentally ill people escape their problems, and the resort of truly evil people. Nooooooooo.

I had similar difficulties with the style of Porter's previous book, Vassa in the Night, but the lag plus the squicky content here gave me no incentive to finish When I Cast Your Shadow.

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss

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