Book Review: Shadow Status by River K. Scott

Everyone had told him not to do it.

Shadow Status, opening line –

A sci-fi novel set in a dystopian world that also includes AI characters? Of course I wasn’t going to turn this one down! Honestly, I have never really outgrown my dystopian phase, and give me a book featuring artificial intelligence and I’m pretty much guaranteed to be obsessed with the corresponding character πŸ€— There’s a reason why I love Illuminae, Skyward, Scythe, and The Unseen World so much – as long as I’m not the one who has to do the coding, sentient machines are the coolest thing ever! I’m just a huge nerd, okay?

And, for the most part, Shadow Status did not disappoint. I absolutely loved the world-building and the horrific futuristic scenario we are thrown into – basically, when trying to genetically alter human DNA to make it disease-resistant, scientists ended up completely frying everybody’s immune systems, forcing all that was left of humanity to crowd into protective domes – and the fast pace of the novel also made it next to impossible to put down.

That being said, though, the pace was also sometimes too fast for my liking. If you’re the kind of reader who loves plot-driven books with a ton of action and a big showdown at the end, Shadow Status is right up your alley. Personally, however, I prefer my plots to be a bit slower, so that there is more time to focus on the characters’ feelings and relationships. We did get a bit of that here – I really enjoyed how much focus was put on the protagonist Jaffrey’s sibling relationships, for instance πŸ₯° – but I just wanted more!!

Plus, I also thought that things were resolved rather easily at the end. Mind you, the resolution did take plenty of effort and there were very high stakes, but considering the complexity and the amount of problems Jaffrey had to face, I felt that everything fell into place a bit too quickly…

Overall, though, I still thought that Shadow Status was a lot of fun and would recommend it if you’re on the lookout for more action-packed YA science fiction!

(In case any of you are interested: The author is currently still handing out free copies to reviewers. You can find more information here.)

Title: Shadow Status

Author: River K. Scott

Genre: YA Science Fiction / Cyberpunk / Dystopian Fiction

Page Count: 465

Publication Date: October 13th, 2020

Date Read: February 13th-14th, 2022

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars


A talented young hacker. A desperate artificial intelligence. The fate of two worlds.

Sixteen-year-old Jaffrey Pewitt holds a life-threatening secret. A genetic outcast, the brilliant teen’s academy scores have earned him a position patrolling the mainframe and eliminating rogue program code ― a job prohibited to those with his DNA. And when he encounters an illegal AI, she threatens to expose his true identity if he doesn’t help her community survive.

Torn between loyalty to his people and protecting himself, Jaffrey walks a knife’s edge in a play for more time. But when his superiors upload a massive virtual war machine that causes a lethal power surge, the cost in digital and human lives convinces him that the future of both species may be doomed.

Can Jaffrey choose the right side before it’s too late?

Like I already mentioned above, what I thought was by far the coolest thing about Shadow Status was the world! A big reason why am such a dystopian fanatic is that I can’t get enough of scenarios that make me question our own society, and this novel most definitely delivered. Apart from the “genetic engineering gone wrong” premise being fascinating in and of itself, we also get to see the consequences this could have on societal structure – and I was hooked.

In Jaffrey’s world, people’s worth is based almost exclusively on their DNA. Even though everybody is affected by the genetic modification that was introduced by scientists centuries ago, the degree to which they are impacted differs. For some people, the modification simply means that they will never be able to go outside, where the air is rife with pathogens that could kill them. But for Prosets like Jaffrey, the modification means certain death. Their DNA is so scrambled that no Proset has ever reached full adulthood, and because of that, they are expendable. If they are going to die anyway, why not make the Prosets do all of the horrible jobs no one else wants to? Why give them access to privileges that would mean others would have to settle for less?

I thought this split within society was riveting, particularly since it came with a bunch of corruption and hypocrisy that mirrored what we continuously see in the real world. For example, Jaffrey’s parents, who are of high social standing, have no qualms about bribing and blackmailing people into keeping their son’s status a secret, but they simultaneously treat other Prosets just as shittily as everyone else does. Neither they nor their children have ever seen the need to lift so much as a finger to help the Prosets, or even to interact with them. In general, efforts to find a cure for the modification seemed to pale in comparison to Resets’ – i.e. the less afflicted part of the population’s – attempts to stay in power.

Photo by Edward Jenner on

Apart from the “real” world, though, we also got a pretty cool virtual one! In efforts to develop a cure and keep their protective areas up and running, Jaffrey’s people have made huge developments in information technology and computer science. People are now able to connect their minds to computer and “graft” into a virtual world, where code that is supposed to find a way to eradicate the “Original Modification” is stored. To make sure this program stays up and running, so-called Watchers are tasked with protecting it from malware, which they have to hunt down from within. However, when Jaffrey’s life-long dream of becoming a Watcher finally seems about to come true, he starts to realize there might be a lot more to the malware story that was kept hidden from him…

Quite a bit of the book takes place within this computer world and, similar to other virtual reality books like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One or Ursula Poznanski’s Erebos, these parts had a distinct video game feel to them. There’s a ton of action, a ton of shooting, lots of twists, lots of drama, and a huge finale that wraps everything up at the end.

Photo by Negative Space on

As cool as all of this was, however, I felt it distracted from the characters. While I definitely related a lot to Jaffrey and his plight, I really wished we had gotten to see his relationships a bit more. Because they were all so promising! His little sister Astrid, who loves coding and stands by her brother’s side no matter what, was beyond awesome. His older brother Ben, who is fiercely protective of Jaffrey but treats other Prosets with utmost loathing, was one of the most complex characters in the book. His hot-headed albino bestie Parker was a ton of fun to be around. The AIs Jaffrey meets while grafting had extremely intriguing backstories, as did the mysterious Proset girl Jaffrey spots with Parker at the theater.

Still, in my opinion, the exploration of these relationships mostly remained very surface-level in spite of the interesting characters. Jaffrey seemed drawn to help the AI characters rather quickly, without ever really getting to know them. His friendship with Parker went through several ups and downs, but none of this ever seemed to have a huge impact on Jaffrey emotionally. There was a romantic subplot with so little chemistry and development that I started to wonder why it was even there in the first place…

And I felt similarly about Shadow Status‘ ending. It was cool, it was epic, and very fast-paced. But I just didn’t think it had as much depth as it could have had! Considering how extraordinarily shitty Jaffrey’s situation was, I simply found it hard to believe that he and his friends would be able to resolve things to the point that they did. Sure, they could make a start on changing things for the better, but would they really be able to change that much that fast? With every new era come a bunch of uncertainties, and I just felt like this otherwise super conservative society accepted them rather quickly…

My final gripe, though, concerns the writing πŸ˜… I know this is probably going to sound super petty, but while it was usually very fast-paced and engaging, the writing was sometimes interspersed with these noun phrases that were so stuffed with additional modifiers that they struck me as extremely clunky. Plus, the dialogue was so riddled with futuristic slang that, even though it gave an additional sci-fi touch, it was sometimes hard for me to completely immerse myself in the story. To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, here are some random examples:

Gasps went up from the crowd gathered on the overdeck surrounding the bridge to watch the last game of the season. (p. 11)

Altogether, eighteen heads bobbled in the vid conference queue box on the tablet screen in Jaffrey’s bedroom. (p. 163)

“Munchie, lyze me, okay? I’m not going anywhere.” (p. 59)

“Shh. This hub’s a secret. Most grubs are as bad as blurts…” He frowned, but not at Jaffrey. “You can keep a secret, right?” (p. 140)

“How’d you do it?” Rihanna’s long black bangs were sweat-flattened against her dark copper skin. “I thought for glassdamn sure, Ohhhhh, that dregger’s gonna get ‘im any nan, and then poof! – You’re invisible. You have got to show me.” (p. 155)

I’m not saying that the book sounded like this all the time, but it did often enough that I started to get annoyed!

Overall, though, I still had a great time reading Shadow Status! Even though it didn’t always go into as much depth as I might have liked, it was certainly engaging and also made me think a lot. So if you’re more of a plot-based reader who can’t resist an exciting futuristic scenario and lots of action, I think this one might be right up your alley!

Anyway, if you’ve read this yourself, let me know whether you agree with my assessments! And if not – are you interested in reading it? Do you have any further book recommendations that feature artificial intelligence or interesting dystopian worlds? After all, I can never get enough of those! πŸ€—

(At least, I’m a fan of dystopian situations if they occur in books… I’ve spent most of my spare time this week glued in horror to various international newsfeeds because to say that I am very much freaking out about this whole Ukraine situation would be a gross understatement. As much as I love the Russian culture and language, I am absolutely horrified by Putin’s actions and terrified we are seeing the start of what might become World War III! My heart goes out to everyone in Ukraine, and I really, really hope politicians will somehow, miraculously, still find a peaceful solution to all of this!! 😒 )

33 thoughts on “Book Review: Shadow Status by River K. Scott

  1. Anoushka says:

    I… Haven’t read that many dystopian novels actually? And I have very mixed thoughts on all of the ones I have haha, BUT THIS SOUNDS AMAZING AHHHH! Like I’m ALWAYS here for AI and YOUR REVIEW IS PERFECTION and EVERYTHING SOUNDS SO INTERESTING, so obviously I’m convinced (although the snippets you put definitely DID take me a few tries to completely understand πŸ˜…πŸ˜… but I guess it’s worth a try? Especially if it isnt like that throughout the book?) AND SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS IN BOOKS IS THE BEST THING EVER AHHH, thank you so much for getting me excited about this book like that!! LOVE YOUR REVIEW!! ❀️❀️

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Hahaha, once I’d read The Hunger Games, I was addicted to the genre and sixteen-year-old me read basically nothing else 😁 In the time since, it has gotten a bit less extreme, but I still like a good dystopian book every now and then! πŸ₯°

      Also, if you are into fast-paced books with AIs and sibling relationships, this one might really be something worth checking out! (I assure you, the snippets make a lot more sense in context, so don’t let that throw you off πŸ˜‰) The author is still looking for reviewers, so if you’re interested, you might even be able to snag a free copy…

      But regardless of whether you end up reading this or not, I’m really happy you liked the review, Anoushka! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I definitely got COVID isolation vibes, too πŸ˜‚ Though, honestly, since the characters in the book had never known anything else, they barely seemed bothered by it… They were more worried about possible breaches that might end up killing them, and besides, they were still allowed to meet up with all their friends! So unfair 😭

      Anyway, I hope you like the book if you do end up checking it out, Nehal!

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Shame on you for not reading the entire post first! Honestly, Nehal, you’re so evil! 😜

      And yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the slang either πŸ˜… I swear that it makes a lot of sense in context, but still, something in me just does not like too many weird made up words at once, I guess… Like, those swear words in The Maze Runner? They drove me nuts!! I have no logical explanation for this aversion, though, so take my complaints with a grain of salt…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel says:

    i am in awe of how detailed your review is, and now its giving my reviews and existential crisis. anyway. i think i may be in a sci fi slump right now, considering how I haven’t read a sci fi book in what, 4-5 months?? but this does sound very exciting.
    although those snippets you shared do sound… extra. but worth a shot i guess.
    love the review naemi! (pronounced the correct way hehe)

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      You haven’t seen the worst of it yet, Rachel – if you think this review is detailed, you’re going to panic at the length of my spoiler-filled ones πŸ˜…πŸ€£ The thing is, though, if I write a review, I kind of have to say more about a book than I eventually will in my wrap-up, so things tend to get a little crazy!! πŸ™ˆ However, since long reviews are an absolute pain to write and barely anyone reads them anyway, I highly doubt you should be going into an existential crisis πŸ˜‰ Your reviews are great as they are! πŸ’™

      Also, yeah, the futuristic slang really was… something πŸ˜… But I swear it makes a lot more sense in context and that not the entire book is like this, so don’t let those snippets stop you from reading Shadow Status if you think it sounds interesting!

      (Also, bonus points for your A+ pronunciation skills!!! πŸ‘πŸ˜„ )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Suhani says:

    EEEK this seems so good!! it’s been quite a while since I’ve read a good sci fi book so hopefully I’ll end up getting to this one!!
    And ahh I loved reading your review(teach me how to write long and in depth book reviews please I think the last time I wrote one was easily three months ago😭😭😭) and yea the snippets you mentioned are a bit strange in a way πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚but still hoping it’s a good read!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, if you do read it, I really hope you’ll end up enjoying it, Suhani!! And like I said, review copies are still up for grabs if you’re interested… πŸ˜‰

      I don’t think I’m qualified to teach long in-depth review writing though – I’m more of a word-vomiting expert πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Line @First Line Reader says:

    I’m starting to feel bad about not wanting to read any of the books you review πŸ˜… Plot-based, a lot of action and sibling relationships just don’t sound like me. The premise did sound interesting but also vaguely similar to Unwind, or maybe that’s just me thinking about that book because it’s going to be my next read 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, it’s not like I’m praising them to the skies either, so I think I can find it in me to forgive you πŸ˜‰ Especially since I’m pretty sure that except for Project Hail Mary, you’ve already read every single book I’ve rated five stars and written a full review for… And even though it was under coercion, you did say you were planning on reading Project Hail Mary, too, so I am more than satisfied!! 😁

      Besides, even though Shadow Status was easily my favorite “review book” yet, it can in no way compete with Neal Shusterman, so I would also recommend going with Unwind πŸ₯° The later books especially really make you think!! (The premise is very different from Shadow Status’, though 😜)

      Also – I kind of already have plans for a series I want to review next (Remember my environmentally friendly Elantris plans? 😁), and let’s just say I think you’re going to be interested in that one…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Line @First Line Reader says:

        Well, I will be reading Project Hail Mary! I even had an idea that I would read it in January or February but then we disagreed on so much that I didn’t want to curse it by reading it at this time if that makes sense. I don’t whether I expected the content of the book to somehow change but I didn’t want to risk it πŸ˜…πŸ™ˆ

        And I probably will be very interested in that next review of yours but something tells me the books are already on my TBR πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          I think I see where you’re coming from πŸ˜‚ But don’t worry – even if you end up hating Project Hail Mary, I won’t hold it against you (too much 😜). I am well aware that the book has flaws that will probably bother people who aren’t blinded by their giddy excitement about all the math content a whole lot more than they did me 🀣 And Project Hail Mary is definitely not the deeply thoughtful and character-driven type of book that you usually love, so I actually wouldn’t be surprised if you liked it less than I did πŸ˜… Still, it has so much cool language stuff that I’m dying to have your thoughts on, so I will happily keep pushing it at you anyway!! 😁

          (Also, sorry for the sporadic responses – I decided relatively spontaneously to visit a friend over the weekend, so it may take a while for me to get to all of my comments… However, that does mean I have a three hour train ride home tonight, which should be perfect for finishing Elantris, Part I πŸ˜‰)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Line @First Line Reader says:

            I’m kinda glad you say that because I most likely won’t like it as much as you (you like it a lot!), so the pressure isn’t too high πŸ˜„

            (I figured it was going to be a busy weekend with the comment yesterday πŸ˜‰ And long train rides are a true blessing sometimes!)

            Liked by 1 person

            • abookowlscorner says:

              Well, whenever you feel too pressured, just remember how much I hated on The Library of the Unwritten, and then you should be fine πŸ˜‚

              (And yes, I suppose long train rides aren’t that bad – at least as long as your train isn’t delayed so much that the Deutsche Bahn decides to reroute you through two different cities, making the journey so full of stressful train changes that reading isn’t really an option πŸ˜… But hey, I suppose this is still a good opportunity to get to all the comments I haven’t answered yet! And since I will probably miss my next train thanks to all the delays, I should at least have an hour of peaceful reading time at the station before the following train comes πŸ˜‡)

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Meena Green says:

    This book sounds awesome but that dialogue was painful haha I agree with usually wanting to see more of the character’s relationships, that’s always fun to see but I do tend to prefer more character-driven books. (this is strawberrys corner btw πŸ™‚ )

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, same, I’ll take character-drivenness over plot-drivenness any day! 😁 Like, I will literally read thousands of pages of characters doing nothing; as long as they feel stuff, I’ll be engrossed! 🀣

      And oooh, cool, you’ve set up your new author website!! (I just saw that I missed your post on this πŸ™ˆ Sorry!! My new teaching job has completely taken over my life, I guess πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚) I’ll go check it out immediately! πŸ€—

      Liked by 1 person

      • Meena Green says:

        I completely agree, as long as they feel stuff, it’s so interesting to read, humans will always be interesting and weird creatures πŸ˜‚ And someone else feeling the same as me makes me feel a lot better about the more filler scenes in my book , more hopeful someone else will like them too πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

        Haha that’s fine, how is your new teaching job going? Enjoying it? 😁

        Liked by 1 person

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