Friday, May 7, 2010
Review: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Despite being born in an international “post-Shift” generation that can see and hear ghosts, Aura’s life is pretty good, for she and her boyfriend, musician Logan, are madly in love. But then the happiest day of Logan’s life ends in his sudden and tragic death, and he returns as a ghost. That’s when the real problems begin.
Aura still loves Logan with all her heart and is not ready to move on, but what sort of future can she have with a ghost? It would be better for Logan to move on when he is at peace instead of sticking around and running the risk of turning irreversibly into a Shade, a frightening malevolent spirit. And there’s also Zachary, the cute and devoted Scottish exchange student, who holds a huge secret that might unravel everything Aura knows of ghosts, and her suspicions of his and her role in the creation of the Shift.
Some adult authors’ attempts to write a YA novel end disastrously, with dumbed-down characters, childish writing, and overdramatization. Thankfully, Jeri Smith-Ready is not one of them. With SHADE, Jeri proves that her smart writing transcends age boundaries, and that she is capable of creating incredibly detailed worlds of tension, action, mystery, and romance.
Aura is a wonderfully strong and passionate heroine. She is not afraid to talk back and speak her mind, much to the delight of readers who love themselves a great big dose of flirtacious verbal jousting. It is this passion, her temper and self-confidence and desires, that make her torn romantic feelings so believable. Love triangles are difficult to write well, but Jeri Smith-Ready makes it look easy. Zach’s assertiveness (and accent—come on, let’s admit it, how can you not think of Oliver Wood when reading this book?) is hot, and so is his determination to help Aura, even when she doesn’t realize she wants his help. And one would think that a dead person is static, but Logan’s character actually grows more and more well-rounded as the story progresses in his ghost state.
But even the best of love triangles alone won’t make a book truly great, which is why the complexity of the world in SHADE is so astonishing and admirable. Jeri Smith-Ready deftly weaves together details to portray for us an urban fantasy world that could easily be our own. The Shift, the presence of the ghosts, the Shades, the disturbingly powerful government division in charge of regulating paranormal activity, the mystery involving real-life enigmas—all of these are written into the book in a way that doesn’t make them glaringly obvious, with a neon arrow next to them saying, “LOOK HERE IMPORTANT WORLD-BUILDING POINT”; instead, we easily and gladly accept the unique things about Aura’s world as fact, and never have to question their presence and placement in the story.
SHADE has a great balance between the larger, political plot involving the “ghost police” and possible ramifications of revelations of the Shift, and the more personal sentimental emotional plot of Logan’s death and Aura’s torn romantic feelings between the two guys. For an oversaturated YA paranormal market, I doubt you can find a smarter, snappier book, and for a smart read, it’s exhilaratingly entertaining. If you’re a fan of paranormal lit, love triangles, and/or stories with a dash of political conspiracy and larger-world stakes, you absolutely cannot miss this one. Your brain will thank you.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - I love the covers, but I am NOT a fan of the arm sticking awkwardly into the page. Hello?! What is up with that? And yeah, yeah, I know that when you unfold the dust jacket you get the full image of the girl... but still. Awkward.
Simon Pulse / May 4, 2010 / Hardcover / 309pp. / $17.99
ARC received from publisher.
Oh man, I should've sounded a LOT more enthusiastic in my review. Just putting it up makes me wish I could reread it!