The Shadow Club - Neal Shusterman No one likes to be second-best. We all have that one person who constantly does better at whatever we're trying to do. There's always that one kid who wins all the awards, who always succeeds at everything while the rest of us are left to feel like no one notices us. This is the sentiment that drives a group of kids to form "The Shadow Club," a club of kids who feel "second-best" to someone else. It starts off as something innocent, an outlet for them all to share their feelings. But quickly, the Shadow Club starts to go too far ... The members start playing practical jokes on their rivals. And when unplanned and dangerous pranks start happening and no one in the Shadow Club admits to them, they become convinced that someone knows their secret and is trying to frame them.If you know me, you know that I love Neal Shusterman. I worship the ground he walks on. He has written some of the best YA books out there (in my opinion), including [b:Unwind|764347|Unwind (Unwind, #1)|Neal Shusterman||750423], [b:Bruiser|1931915|Bruiser|Neal Shusterman||1934354], and the [b:Skinjacker Trilogy: Everlost; Everwild; Everfound|11508183|Skinjacker Trilogy Everlost; Everwild; Everfound (Skinjacker, #1-3)|Neal Shusterman||16444003]. His books always have intriguing and unique premises, and he always fleshes out his ideas very well.That said, I felt a bit underwhelmed by The Shadow Club. Maybe it was too middle-grade for my taste, and also it's about ten years old. So, I can definitely say that Neal Shusterman's writing has improved over time. But anyway, I liked it but I couldn't help but compare it to his more recent books and it just wasn't as good.I do like the premise. It's definitely something a lot of people can relate to. I mean, I really relate to it. For example, I'm a writer ... and I've always had that kind of feeling like I'm "good but not good enough" and that as hard as I try there are always people my age who are better than me and succeed way more than I do ... and it's a very discouraging feeling. So, I understood where the characters' feelings of rejection were coming from and I sympathized with them to an extent.Unfortunately, my sympathy with them ended about there. A lot of the characters' actions in this book just came off as mean-spirited to me and it made it hard for me to like them. Not only that, but most of them were kind of cardboard-cutout characters with not much personality. It was like "second-most popular girl," "second-smartest girl," "second-best basketball player" or whatever, and all of these characters were pretty clichéd and I could barely even keep track of who was who because they were all pretty bland. And over all, the book just felt really short and underdeveloped. I mean, it was a simple plot and I guess there wasn't much to it. But it seemed a bit rushed and ultimately I didn't feel like I could really hold on to any of it. In conclusion, the book had a good premise––simple but easy to relate to. However, it fell flat for me in terms of pacing and character development.However, don't see this review as a judgment of Neal Shusterman's work as a whole. Really, his more recent books are genius and you should all go read them.