Review: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Publisher: S&S UK

Where did you get this book from: Review copy from Publisher

Release date: Out now.

Blurb taken from author’s official website:

Love ties them together.
Death can’t tear them apart.

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.

Sixteen years ago, a shift happened which affected all of the young people that were born from that point. They are able to see and speak to ghosts. Although most ghosts are benign and move on, some turn to Shades who can become violent, and harm and even kill those who can interact with them.

Aura was one of the first amongst this new world to see and hear ghosts, and she has had to cope with their attention which can be annoying, humorous and sometimes dangerous. She also has to cope with growing up, facing doubts about her deepening relationship with her very popular boyfriend, Logan, who is part of a band, and deal with the ghosts around her. After a night of partying and celebrating Logan’s new found success with his band, tragedy strikes when he suddenly dies. Aura has to pick up the pieces and live with the guilt because she feels she was part of the cause of his death.

Shade is a stark and haunting book with a gritty and dark prose that adds to  the chilling tone, although there are lighter flashes of humour and emotion that helps to balance the story from verging into too dark of a place. The scene with Logan’s death and its aftermath was so realistic and heat-wrenching that I still felt the shock of it even though I knew it was coming. Seeing Aura and Logan’s family and friends dealing with his death, and the realisation of his reappearance as a ghost, really highlights the theme of grief and adds multi-layered meanings to the theme of life and death in the book. I think it was one of the best portrayals about grief, and I have read a few books with this subject.

The rich and realistic characters were also a highlight for me. Aura was a great character with doubts and flaws, but she also had strong and an inner iron will to cope with the creepy world around her and dealing with her grief. When Zachary, an engaging and humorous exchange student from Scotland, arrives to her school, he becomes her study partner for a personal project and that adds more complications to Aura’s love life.  While she has to deal with the physical loss of Logan, he still visits and interacts with her which complicates her feelings and grief process.

I LOVED Zachary and I hope in future books Aura will be able to move on and have a relationship with him. He was funny, smart, and he was very empathic and supportive to her situation. I loved how his humour shone – especially in contrast with the dark tone of the book. I especially loved this part of the book as it really made me laugh out loud :D. Here is a quote that I feels captures the humour of Zachary:

“ At school tomorrow,” I said, “you’re going to hear a lot of stuff about me. Most of it’s bullshit.”
“I won’t believe a word. In fact, I’ll just give them blank looks and say-” He uttered a series of guttural Gaelic syllables. All I could make out was something that sounded like byorla.
“What’s that mean?”
“I don’t speak bloody English.”

I also felt there that there was more tension with Zachary and Aura, and they had more things in common compared to Logan, who I could not warm up to.  Although this sets up an unusual love triangle which I think adds a new twist to this trope.

Aura is still dealing with her grief realistically, and is unable to let go of Logan which was heartbreaking to see. Jeri Smith Ready really captures teen emotions authentically, and with real substance; their voice and feelings were fantastically portrayed with real depth – which also makes this one of the most real YA books I have read!

Whilst Aura has to deal with ghostly boyfriends and a potential of a live one, secrets of her past and origins and how it relates to The Shift comes to light.  I won’t state more because it’s pretty spoilery, but I really can’t wait to see how how this pans out. Along with the emotional elements, the added mystery and the hint of a conspiracy, I definitely want to pick up the next book.

Shade combines the coming of age and teen life in a haunting setting with people coping in a strange and unsettling world. This is one of the best books that really examines grief, as well as dealing with themes of sexuality, death and love. Add in the fact that it’s memorable, has snappy dialogue, and well fleshed out characters with a hint of mystery, Shade is a great start to this multi-layered series.

I give Shade a B+

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