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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review: "Shade" by Jeri Smith-Ready.


Author: Jeri Smith-Ready.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster.

Pages: 309.

Summary (taken from GoodReads): Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last. Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone. Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted
nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost. It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary
is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit. As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

Cover impressions: This cover is horrible. It looks cheap and lazy and not particularly exciting. That’s a real shame because believe it or not, I actually quite enjoyed this book and think Simon and Schuster really dropped the ball by not giving this book a more appealing cover like some of their recent YA output *evil stare towards Hush Hush*. I received my copy from the publisher thanks to a competition by the Book Smugglers. It’s the first time I’ve ever won a book as well. I haven’t seen a lot of interesting ghost centred stories in the YA genre right now so I was definitely intrigued by this book, terrible cover aside (the US one is much nicer apparently.)

Thanks to my recent reading choices of deadly masochistic tendencies, I’ve developed something of a paranoid fear over paranormal YA. I’m much more wary about dipping my toes into the pool to sample what’s out there for fear of head-desk inducing moments. But I have to say I found “Shade” to be very enjoyable. The basic premise – that everybody born after a specific date has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts – set up an interesting universe with the dynamics seemingly tilted favourably towards the younger generation. Since ghosts have become part of society in a way, it’s up to all ‘post-shifters’ to help out and Aura, our protagonist, who’s auntie and guardian Gina is a lawyer prosecuting in the name of ghost related cases, is particularly heavily involved in such situations. Smith-Ready did a pretty good job showing the dynamics between pre and post-shifters, showing the frustrations and problems encountered by both.

I won’t lie, I did a little air-punch when I realised how much I actually liked Aura as a character and all that credit goes to the author, who did a great job keeping her as a normal teenager and not a patron of the good ship Mary Sue. Yes, she has this amazing ability but so does everyone else under sixteen. She has her mopey moments but you as the reader actually understand why she feels the way she does. She’s hurt, confused and reeling with emotions much bigger than anyone her age is supposed to deal with. She’s grown up in a world where the seemingly impossible is the norm and while she is frustrated with having the dead surround her begging for her help, she understands the toughness of this situation for the others less fortunate than her. Even when the story falls into love triangle territory – probably one of my least favourite things in YA because it’s seldom executed well – I still sympathised with and understood Aura’s choices. And, here’s the kicker, she has a fantastic and responsible attitude towards sex! Okay, the derogatory whore terms are mentioned once or twice in passing which made me flinch but otherwise Aura is not ashamed of her desires and needs. For the more fragile of nature (or whatever you want to call it) there is a brief scene where Aura is on auto-pilot but it didn’t bother me at all. She’s a teenager; of course she’s doing that! Most importantly, she’s a believable teenage girl. She also has a hilarious line slyly lamp-shading a certain series about sparkly things that I daren’t speak of in public.

It’s such a shame that the two objects of her love and confusion weren’t as interesting as Aura herself. On the plus side they’re not deathly dull YA romance stereotypes. Logan is flighty, irresponsible and a little naive but he genuinely loves Aura and regrets his mistakes. While Zachary, the sarcastic Scottish exchange student (hell yeah, patriotism rules!), is probably a much more archetypal character – the witty, slightly smug but gorgeous exotic figure with eyes for only one – he has some interesting traits. Smith-Ready also managed to keep the Scottish-isms to a low, keeping the slang natural and not too distracting. While I still hope that one day love triangles will become as outdated a literary fad as sparkly creatures, in this book I didn’t mind it and it grabbed my interest long enough.

The pacing suffers a bit in the middle and the plotting wavers in places since most of the really exciting stuff doesn’t come until towards the end, and the last few pages definitely feel a little rushed. The story itself feels a little too familiar, even with the interesting mythos in place. While I can forgive a couple of plot holes when the first book is a set up for a series, as this one is, but there were a couple of moments where I was distracted by them so I have to mark the book down for that. This was an enjoyable read and I’m glad I read it but I can’t call it a must buy read. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re sick of the same old creatures and love stories though and I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel “Shift” when it’s released.


Next on the Sparkle Project - I've a couple of things lined up but we'll need to see how much real life gets in the eye. Damn you real life!

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Anonymous said...

I got so intrigued by your review and was about to search for it on bookdepository to order it when I came to the end of the post and saw that it's part of a series. Why don't they write stand-alone books anymore? :-((((

fromthisgirl said...

Sounds interesting. If I haven't already added it then I will now. I have a paranoia with paranormal YA as well. I think it's why I ended up enjoying Wicked Lovely more than most people did. I'm so damn focused on how different it is from the stuff I usually hate in YA that I'm more inclined to forgive its faults more than others might. *shrug* Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that cover really is terrible. It looks like a cheap urban fantasy book. (Although if it was a cheap urban fantasy book she'd be wearing a midriff-exposing shirt and standing with her back to the viewer.)

Alex Merges said...

I guess this is one of those scenarios where "never judge a book by its cover" holds true. I'm so glad to see a decent female lead--there's a pitiable shortage in this genre--but the cover made me laugh, IRL. Think they have enough in the way of swishy blue things?

Anonymous said...

what the hell? i thought pc cast was the author at first, her name is bigger than the real authors!

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