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I Become Shadow

I Become Shadow

5.0 6
by Joe Shine

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With a "headstrong heroine on par with Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior" (Kirkus) this debut thriller combines a pulse-pounding scifi thriller with a new adult coming-of-age story set at Texas A&M University. 

When Ren Sharpe was fourteen, she was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called FATE and trained to be a human


With a "headstrong heroine on par with Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior" (Kirkus) this debut thriller combines a pulse-pounding scifi thriller with a new adult coming-of-age story set at Texas A&M University. 

When Ren Sharpe was fourteen, she was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called FATE and trained to be a human weapon.
Now, four years later, she receives her assignment: protect Gareth Young at all costs. Currently a student at Texas A&M, Gareth will someday change the world. FATE calls people like Gareth “FIPs”—future important people—and they’re everywhere, each with a FATE-trained shadow.
But when disaster strikes, Ren will have to turn on her maker. Together with Junie, a fellow abductee and the one person she trusts, Ren takes Gareth on the run.
Because whatever else happens, failure is not an option.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Rachel Stadler
I Become Shadow is entertaining and holds the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, the rules of the world are only implied, leaving the reader to guess when the main characters are breaking them. Ren tells her story in the first-person. She is a not-so-typical fourteen-year-old social outcast who does not want to grow up. This book would be best for younger teens as older teens may not find the action in the story to be compelling or intense. Reviewer: Rachel Stadler, Teen Reviewer; Ages 12 to 18.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Tim Capehart
The most interesting thing about Rennes Sharpe is her name; she is neither popular nor athletic, and the only reason she goes to parties is her friendship with Beth. Then, at the age of fourteen, she awakens to intruders in her bedroom late one night…and she never sees her family again. Ren is whisked off to an ultra-high-security training facility for Shadows, super warriors trained to protect people important to the future of the world. Back in 1992, a powerful space telescope began showing images from fifty years in the future, and a multi-national group came together to make sure that golden future arrives. Each Shadow is linked to a Future Important Person, and must protect that person at all costs. After surviving four years of training, Ren is linked; but is everything her handlers have told her the truth? Shine’s debut, the first in a planned series, requires an extremely elastic suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that this is the best way to train supersoldiers and to accept the pseudo-science behind the premise and the paradox minefield of “seeing the future” and protecting it. The first half, Ren’s abduction and training, is unrealistic and, at times, boring; however, once she is “linked” to a nerdy college student, the book shows some signs of life. The greatest strength is Ren’s jokey, snark-a-minute narration; that alone puts it in the same ballpark as Michelle Gagnon’s Persefone trilogy or Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider thrillers. Reviewer: Tim Capehart; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
A secret international organization gets more than it bargained for when it kidnaps 14-year-old Rennes "Ren" Sharpe.Snatched from her bed one night, Ren finds herself at the Future Affairs Training and Education Center. Ren soon learns that she and the other teens at the center are all recruits undergoing training to serve as protectors, or Shadows, to the future leaders. The first-person narrative follows her four-year training program at the F.A.T.E. Center, including torturous nightly injections of the drug "fire" to inure her to pain. On the first day of training, she meets Junie Miller, and the two develop a connection that eventually develops into a romance of sorts. Of course, once training ends, Ren and Junie are separated forever, as both are linked to their assignments, the future leaders they are sworn to protect. Ren's "link" is the nerdy Gareth Young, incoming freshman engineering major at Texas A&M. After Gareth is targeted in a seemingly random attack, Ren starts breaking the Shadow rules, beginning to wonder whether something more sinister is behind the attack. In his debut, Shine delivers a thrilling plot and a headstrong heroine on par with Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior. While the novel delivers on Ren's characterization and action, the romance between Ren and Junie feels unnecessary and is never quite believable.Read it for the satisfying action, not the love story. (Science fiction/thriller. 14-18)
From the Publisher
Praise for I Become Shadow

“The greatest strength is Ren’s jokey, snark-a-minute narration; that alone puts it in the same ballpark as Michelle Gagnon’s Persefone trilogy or  Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider thrillers.”

"A fast, funny, sharp debut." 
—Kiersten White, New York Times best selling author of Paranormalcy

“With a love triangle, vivid training sessions, and ample action, Shine’s debut introduces a new kick-butt, funny heroine who could hold her own in a ring full of tough, independent girls like Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, and Lela Santos.”

“In his debut, Shine delivers a thrilling plot and a headstrong heroine on par with Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Brimming with wisecracks and jokes, which turn an interesting concept into a very light read . . . plenty of excitement and humor.”
—School Library Journal

School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—A lightearted take on government conspiracies and highly trained secret assassins. Fourteen-year-old Rennes Sharpe has a lovely life in Amherst, Massachusetts, until she is pulled out of bed in the middle of the night and taken to a secret facility. She learns that high-ranking officials can now see the future via satellite images, and that young people who would have died otherwise (like herself) are instead plucked from their lives and trained as covert bodyguards for people who will eventually become important to humanity. Her death is faked so her parents stop looking for her; she's given daily injections of something called "fire" designed to destroy her pain receptors; and in four years, she's released as a protective killing machine. But after meeting her FIP (Future Important Person), she finds out that both of them are just pawns in a larger conspiracy. The novel is brimming with wisecracks and jokes, which turn an interesting concept into a very light read. Despite the loose ends that never get tied up, or even addressed fully, and several overly implausible deus ex machinas, there is plenty of excitement and humor to carry the story.—Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City

Product Details

Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3

It's funny how your brain will latch on to the most mundane details when it comes to memory. I couldn’t tell you anything in particular I did that last night before it happened. And there was probably nothing of note that happened anyway, but I remember everything about that last dinner with my family. The ketchup on my meatloaf kind of looked like Elvis. I remember showing my dad, who sang a little ditty à la the King. Mom commented it was too bad it didn’t look like Jesus, because then we could sell it on eBay. We all laughed. Then my little brother successfully got me to gag when he opened his mouth like a bowl and let the dog drink gravy out of it. Like I said: drool rubs me wrong.
        It had never occurred to me that I should have cherished each second. Who thinks of something like that? I wasn’t a mind reader . . . yet. Just kidding. Still not a mind reader. But maybe my brain, after the fact, catalogued that dinner as something I would want to look back on. And it was right. Way to go, brain. You’re tops.
       After the meal I watched some TV, texted Beth that I’d do better tomorrow, brushed my teeth extra hard, and went to bed.
       The last vision I have of my room is muddled. It was dark. I don’t remember why I woke up, but for some reason I did. Something just didn’t feel right. I sat up and looked around. I was too old to cry out for my parents, right? The moon cast shadows across my filthy room, but nothing seemed out of place. I squinted at the clock: 3:13 a.m. Whew, still plenty of time to sleep.
       I took a sip of water from the glass I kept on my nightstand, took one more look around the room, and shrugged. Must have been nothing, I remember thinking. Nothing my ass.
       The last thing I remember about my room is seeing my old USC hoodie at the foot of my bed and how comfy it looked. I started to reach for it, and that’s when the blackout bag was dropped over my head and zipped tight. A hand clamped over my mouth preventing my Hollywood-horrormovie-worthy scream from reaching anyone.
       I struggled, but more hands pinned my arms behind my back. I kicked hard and caught one attacker in the face. If it did any damage, there was no response. My foot hurt like hell, so I hoped it had done something. In an instant, my arms and legs were zip-tied together, a gag had been forced in my mouth, and I was being carried. Screaming did no good. Only a muffled squeal made it through the gag and the hood. There is no feeling like true terror. I was choking on my own freak-out.
       Hadn’t my parents heard something?! My mother used to check on me at night when I was young. Where is she now?! Help me, please!
       I kept trying to fight even though it seemed pointless.
       Someone with a fed-up, whiny voice said, “Gas her.” I barely had time to comprehend the words before there was nothing.

In the morning my parents would wake up to find me gone. At first they would think I had just gotten up early to go to school. Eight angry phone calls and ten texts later, they would give up threatening me and become frightened. They would contact the police. They would file a missing persons report. Fear would become panic. After twenty-four hours their true terror would set in and never quite disappear. God only knows how much time they would spend looking for me. Both of my parents would develop any number of psychological and emotional issues because—regardless of what I believed—they did love me more than I could ever know.
       About a month after my “disappearance” a burned body would be found in the woods about seven miles from my home. This dead girl would be unrecognizable but the teeth would identify her corpse as mine. Whoever she was (I never found out) would be the same height—similar build, similar everything. The identical teeth would be the clincher, though. There would be no point in continuing the investigation.
       And thus the case of the missing person that was me would be officially closed. I was dead. Gone. Nonexistent. And thus: perfect for the task at hand.

Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time of my kidnapping. No, I would be told this information later when they took out four of my teeth. I asked them, “Why?” They told me about teeth as positive identification and then proceeded to steal them from me. There was no malice, just stating fact.
       But I’m way ahead of myself again, and that fun stuff would happen soon after I woke up. I was only justifying a tangent about what happened to my family once I was gone and, alas, I got on another tangent about teeth. I’m done here.

Chapter 4
My New Home

I woke up strapped to a chair by my arms and wrists wearing only a hospital gown. The room looked like the Pap smear office, only whiter and cleaner and without any free samples. I could smell the bleach that was used to keep it so spotless.
       I instantly regretted my past love of horror movies because my mind suddenly filled with all of the greatest hits of the gory death scenes I’d once laughed at. They were so obviously fake. That’s what made them safe. Only now, they all served as education. My brain worked overtime to come up with the most painful, disgusting death scene of all time. I tried to convince myself that this was all a really bad dream, a movie. But for some reason that bleachy smell triggered something in my head. This wasn’t a movie or a dream. No, this was very real and very scary.
       I started to hyperventilate as I struggled against my bindings. I wasn’t very strong, so what I was hoping to accomplish I didn’t know. But going down without a fight seemed sad. Tears poured out of my eyes. For the first, true time in my life, I was absolutely helpless.
       The door slid open. It made the futuristic hiss like in sci-fi movies. In any other circumstance, I would have gotten a kick out of it. But at that moment, it paralyzed me with fear. I watched, frozen, as an elderly man in a white lab coat entered. Behind him was a smaller, younger woman.
       The man was holding what looked like a tablet of some sort. But it was too thin to be an iPad; besides, it was transparent—it looked like a sheet of clear glass. I could make out a picture of my face and some backward writing all around it. I saw my birthday, height, and weight before the glass went blank. Or clear, I guess is more like it.
       “And how are we doing this evening?” he asked me.
       It was such a casual question and asked with such honest interest that it caught me off guard. Did he not know I was just ripped from my bedroom and taken here against my will? Could he not see the bindings? My tears?
       Something beeped. He looked back down at the glass, now flashing red.
       “Great,” he muttered sarcastically. He looked at the younger woman and asked, “Can you do this one alone?”
       She nodded. He returned it with a curt nod of his own. The door hissed shut behind him.
       With her short red bangs and porcelain skin, the woman looked like Beth, only older. Maybe mid-twenties. She even shied away from making direct eye contact with me like Beth did when she was about to say something that would make me mad. Only I think this girl didn’t want to look at someone who was about to be [insert horrible death here]. I cried harder. I wanted to go home. I wanted my mother.
       Not-Beth busied herself at a small medical fridge making much more noise than necessary. Her back was to me but I caught her looking at me through the reflection in the fridge window. Her eyes darted back to her work.
       “Please help me,” I begged. “Please.” I didn’t care that I was sobbing uncontrollably; maybe that would get a rise out of her. I knew she didn’t want to turn around and face me, but I could tell she was finished with whatever she had been doing at the fridge.
       After a deep breath, Not-Beth turned.
       She held a metal tray with a massive syringe on it. I’d seen horse shots smaller than this one and got lightheaded. My fear of needles was about to be tested to the limit.
       “Please. Don’t do this,” I continued. “Just let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”
       Her face was set, determined to do her duty regardless of my pleas. The syringe was filled with a jet-black liquid. She took it from the tray.
       “I know you can hear me. Please don’t kill me,” were the words I could squeeze out before the sobbing completely took over.
       Not-Beth looked at the syringe. She sighed and placed the needle back down. She shifted her body slightly and then finally looked directly at me. Her eyes were green, like mine.
       “I’m not trying to kill you,” she said. Her voice was surprisingly strong, considering her seemingly shy demeanor. “None of us are. You’re safe here.”
       Safe? I feel anything but safe.
       “Why are you doing this?” I asked.
       “That’s not my place to say. You’ll find out soon enough.”
       “But . . .”
       She made the slightest of eye motions toward the corner and whispered, “There’s always someone watching, listening.”
       My panicked eyes flashed over her shoulder, focusing on a small camera pointing right at us. She quietly continued, “I can’t tell you what you want to know. Not now.”
       She picked up the needle again.
       “What is that?” I asked.
       “There’s a technical term for it. But we call it fire.”
       “Why?” I asked.
       “You’re about to find that out,” she said.
       I turned my head as she slid the giant needle into my arm. Searing pain surged through me on contact, intensifying the farther into my bloodstream it went. I tried to scream but the torture was too much. I clenched my jaw. Time slowed to a standstill.
       “I’m sorry. You’ll understand soon enough.” Not-Beth left, and outside the door I heard her say, “She’s ready. Take her to her room.”
       Two beefy guards unstrapped me from the chair. I wanted to fight them off and run. But there was only agony. My body began to vibrate and spasm. Whatever she’d injected continued to spread in waves. Each new jolt of pain was more excruciating than the previous. I felt like I was burning alive from the inside out. Fire. The word echoed through my head. Not-Beth had lied to me, I was sure of it. This was how it was going to end.
       When the two guards plopped me into a wheelchair, I let them, though every touch felt like hot coals on my skin.
       I wondered where they were taking me. Was this the plan all along? Inject me with some poison and then take bets on how long I’d live? It couldn’t be long. I kept waiting to black out but never did.
       They pushed me through a maze of hallways and into at least two elevators. Even thinking seemed to hurt now. I could hear the unmistakable sound of others, all around me, crying in pain. It filled my ears. I tried to shut it all out. I closed my eyes. I mentally began to say goodbye to my life. My family, my friends. It was over.
       And then I was being lifted out of the chair by the guards. Their hands were like hot pokers on my skin. I opened my eyes as I was carried into a dark room. I couldn’t make out anything in particular since the lights were off. All I remember is they laid me down on what felt like a bed and left.

Meet the Author

Joe Shine grew up in Austin, TX (the greatest city ever), and is a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has an MFA from the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, and after brief stints in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, Joe returned home to Austin (repeat: the greatest city ever). Joe has a normal human job like most everyone else but hopes to become a full-time writer one day, and this is where you, the reader, must do him a really big solid and love I Become Shadow, his first novel.

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I Become Shadow 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome story. I hope the author comes out with a sequel pretty soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author takes an interesting look at the lengths an international group might go to protect the future they have discovered. The main character, Rennes Sharpe, has a believable voice as a not-so-popular 14 year-old caught up in a survival situation. She speaks with a sharp humor and fatalism that will appeal to young adults. Convinced by the trainers at FATE (Future Affairs Training and Education) of the importance of her role as a protector, she undergoes mental, physical and drug-induced conditioning to prepare herself. Her compassion and the ability to connect to others keeps her human and ultimately drives the outcome of her adventures protecting her FIP (Future Important Person) at Texas A&M.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Become Shadow is a fun, witty, and exciting adventure. Joe Shine engages the audience with relatable and lovable characters that embark on a unique destiny. He leaves you anxious for the next in the series!
Van_shortandsweetreviews More than 1 year ago
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publicist in exchange for a honest review/blog tour. When I got the email asking if I wanted to be part of the I BECOME SHADOW Blog Tour, I totally jumped at the chance. I thought the synopsis sounded interesting, I mean who doesn’t love books with secret agencies? I honestly expected this book to be good, enjoyable at most but I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. I BECOME SHADOW is hands down the best YA/NA book I’ve read all year…actually in a very long-long time. I BECOME SHADOW is narrated in first person by our protagonist Ren Sharpe. Ren was abducted from her home at the age of fourteen to be part of the F.A.T.E organization. The F.A.T.E organization has this technology that can somehow predict the future, enabling them to know who is dead or alive, or important a few years from now. It is the same technology that predicted Ren Sharpe would die at the age of fourteen, and so the F.A.T.E intervened and ‘saved’ her…and while she isn’t dead-dead…all her friends and family believed she died (they had a dummy body ready to be discovered and confirmed as Ren, so that an investigation wouldn’t ensue). Ren and three hundred other abductees begin their training to become a Shadow the moment they wake-up from their kidnapping. A Shadow is someone who is trained to protect an important future leader. Each shadow is linked to one future leader, to ensure that nothing happens to them, that they must protect their FIP (Future Important Person) at all cost. Failure is not an option. The writing style/narration is unlike I’ve ever read, literally. Shine’s style is a combination of first person point-of-view and diary format. I really enjoyed it more than I thought, and I didn’t have a hard time getting into the story because I love and connected with Ren immediately. It was as if Ren was sitting across from me telling me her story. It’s like talking to one of your pals, sharing a story over a cup of coffee. The first third of the book was taken place in the past as Ren takes readers through her abduction, and then training and life overall at F.A.T.E.. This part, to be honest, felt like every single dystopian I’ve read previously. I couldn’t help but compare it to the other­­­s because of how similar it was (just the training aspect). But this isn’t to say it was boring, because this book is far from boring. The remaining two-thirds of the story are where everything gets more interesting and where the originality comes in. Two-thirds of the way the book fast-forward to the present and Ren is eighteen-years-old and a full-fledged Shadow. The book is nonstop action and suspense from start to end with enough humor and romance to balance everything out. The world building was well done, and the information perfectly incorporated into the story. There was never a moment that I felt overwhelm with information. The information was perfectly woven into the plot, and small snippets were gradually revealed as the book progressed and as we got to know the characters. I love Ren. While reading the book, I glance back at the back-cover and thought ‘wow, Shine captured the voice of a 14/18 girl so well!’ LOL. It was definitely believable that this book was being narrated by a 14/18 year-old. Ren is my type of heroine, there are just so many things I loved about her; she’s witty, snarky, funny, sweet, strong, independent, realistic, relatable and can totally kick a*s. You’d think that someone trained to be a killing machine would be robotic and awkward but that wasn’t the case with Ren’s character. She somehow managed to keep true to herself regardless of the torture she endured physically and mentally at the F.A.T.E organization; instead it just enhanced her character and made her stronger. I loved Ren’s interaction with everyone around her, it just felt real. Everything Ren, Junie, Gareth felt, I felt. Their emotion just leaps off the page. My favorite scenes are of Ren, Gareth, and Lloyd. It was cute watching Ren fight her training/rules and as these two characters slowly broke down her hard exterior because beneath that shell is just a normal 18-year-old (well as normal as it gets for Ren). Bottom line, I BECOME SHADOW is a stellar debut by Shine. I still can’t believe that this is his first book, because if I didn’t already that …I would have thought he was a seasoned author with many books under his belt. I loved every moment of this book, the plot and the amazing characters that readers will fall in love with. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something fresh, fun and exciting. I’m not sure if there is a sequel in the works, but with that ending…I’m PRAYING that there will be one. Pretty please? This is a debut you do not want to miss. Watch out Katniss, Tris…there’s new kick-as* heroine in town!
TheBumbleGirl1 More than 1 year ago
This is the best page-turner I have read in the last 5 years! It's full of punch-you-in-the-guts moments! I was either laughing, teary-eyed or oh-my-gawding on every other page. I cannot believe that this is a debut for Joe Shine! Ren Sharpe is abducted from her family one night and was told that she was to become something that would have never would have happened if it wasn't for modern technology. The harsh reality of what was to become of her life is tragic and scary and did make me think if there was a possibility of an organization like F. A. T. E. to really exist. Lots of futuristic computers and possibilities where introduced. All very realistic. Too realistic...  Ren's friendship with Junie is what keeps her going. They manage to keep their personalities intact and support one another in the only way that they can manage. Training is life or death, there is no middle ground to latch on to and survive. Ren and Junie's relationship is sweet, necessary, real, and I loved how natural they fell in together, regardless of their circumstances. These characters were raw and hid no emotions, they were so realistic, I really felt for them. I couldn't put the book down, my world became their world and I needed to know that they were somehow, someway going to be okay. Four years later, Ren and Junie have survived training and are ready to finally begin their new lives with their 'assignments' as a Shadow (- a Shadow is someone trained and programmed to protect their assigned person no matter what, even if it means to kill). Little did Ren know how difficult it was going to be to keep an eye on a geeky college freshman. But with all of her training, she manages in more ways than anyone thought was possible.  The unexpected plot twist had me spinning! I felt all of Ren's emotions - when she cried or got angry, I felt it all along with her too. There is no denying that the author's writing is incredible and had me so invested in these characters, I couldn't think straight for a while. Their world became mine, and was able to think that everything that had happen could possibly be happening at this very moment.  *Side-note: There are graphic/violent scenes in this book. A few moments really took me by surprise and I did gasp out loud and wondered if it was something that was truly necessary for the story... I don't usually like these type of books; however, there is no way to tell such a story without these details. And truly appreciated the authors talent to write what was necessary to get Ren's voice done, and the story to be told right.  Great action scenes, suspense, amazing writing and strong-witty characters...  there is something for everyone in this book! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!