Jeri Smith-Ready is one of my autobuy authors, so this is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I picked up an autographed copy at this year’s BEA.
The Premise: Everyone born after what is now called The Shift (which happened sixteen years ago, December 21st, 1:08 Universal Time), can see and hear ghosts. For this generation, the ghosts are annoying and sometimes scary – trying to communicate with the kids and not moving on to the other world. Aura Salvatore was one of the many teenagers dealing with this ability and and it’s downfalls, when her boyfriend Logan dies suddenly and becomes a ghost himself. Now Aura and Logan’s family are left reeling from his death, and it may not be a good thing that Logan’s ghost is still around, because can they move forward when he can’t? And what should Aura do when another boy, Zachary, who is alive and interested in her, when she’s still involved with a ghost? Things are further complicated by Aura’s research into the Shift and her mother’s past, and Zachary reveals a secret which ties them together.
My Thoughts: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: there is something in Jeri Smith-Ready’s writing that appeals to me. Maybe it’s because it strikes me as being carefully thought out. The prose is clear and simple yet the story and the world building reaches beyond the easy and superficial. I liked that there are realistic problems for people with the ability to see ghosts, and that the phenomenon has influenced clothing colors, technology and other facets of society. Even laws have been affected by The Shift. It’s common for kids that work as interpreters for ghosts on the witness stand for example. The government’s reaction is yet another interesting aspect.
What I really love is how this phenomenon is made personal and poignant because of the first person point of view of the narrator, Aura. We see her relationship with Logan through her eyes. They’ve known each other since they were six. His big brother and sister, Siobhan and Mickey, and his younger brother Dylan are used to her presence at their house all the time. They fight, they make up. They share a love of music. What they have is tumultuous yet lovely, but Smith-Ready doesn’t pull any punches, and when Logan dies, on his seventeenth birthday, in a stupid, senseless way, Aura’s loss is palpable. Her grief felt real. It was not a dramatic dark depression (a la catatonic Bella in New Moon), but there are ups and downs and raw emotion. The process is slowed down considerably when Logan’s ghost is still there.
While Aura tries to keep going, grieving for Logan yet holding on to his ghost (despite her best friend Megan and her aunt Gina’s advice not to), Aura also develops a budding relationship with Zachary Moore, a new student from Scotland. Zachary understands that Aura is still dealing with Logan’s death and he’s there for her, but he makes it obvious that he likes her. He’s extremely patient, something which endeared him to me, although sometimes I wondered, could someone his age really be that together? His confidence definitely made him attractive though. This is a love triangle where both guys are equally likable, but because Logan was dead, I didn’t think that it was a healthy relationship to be in the long run (and that’s heartbreaking, but Aura needs to live her life). We shall see where that goes. I like that Aura is still figuring it out.
Another facet of the story was the mystery that Aura is trying to solve – who her father is and what really happened when her mother took a trip to Ireland, over sixteen years ago. She wants to research the monuments at Newgrange for her school project because her mother mentions them in her diaries, but doesn’t want anyone to know what she’s up to. Zachary becomes involved in this research when he’s assigned as her project partner, but he proves to be a little secretive himself. This was a secondary storyline introduced later in the book which left a lot of questions which I’m sure will be further developed in the next book, Shift, which comes out May 2011.
Also – Shade has been optioned by the ABC Family network (doesn’t mean it will be a TV show, but it could be)!
Overall: I do recommend Shade. It’s a young adult story that’s as thoughtfully written as other Jeri Smith-Ready books, so it was as excellent as I was expecting, but perhaps tinged with more sadness. When the story is about ghosts and the death of a seventeen year-old, I would be dismayed if it wasn’t so.