Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.
Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.
The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?
As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.
Shade Me is award-winning author Jennifer Brown’s first book in a thrilling suspense series about Nikki Kill.
Publication Date: January 16, 2016
About Guest Reviewer Joanna:
Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell
My birthday is next week. I will be 42. Yes, thank you, I know. I attribute my youthful looks to my high-carb late-night diet, but I realize not everyone can keep up with that program. Well enough about me. The point is, I have solidly transitioned to adult literature, other than a constant and forever love of all things Harry Potter. I read Hunger Games with a little disappointment, rolled my eyes at the whole Divergent thing, and opted right out of The Fault in Our Stars. Teen angst? Can't do it anymore. DONE that, both in life and in literature. Moving on.
But I was given a copy of Shade Me by Jennifer Brown's publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I accepted it mostly because I didn't realize it was a YA book. I wouldn't have necessarily known it was a YA book either, after the first many chapters—I was aware the protagonist was a kick-ass teen named Nikki Kill but a teenage character does not necessitate a teenage audience. Lord of the Flies was not, you know, written for young British schoolchildren just because it stars them. Right? Right.
Nikki won my heart pretty quickly. There are lots of garbage-y stereotypical ways to write about a dark horse teen with no friends who smokes and studies martial arts, and Jennifer Brown fell into none of the traps. Nikki was actually unique and didn't try too hard to prove to the reader how bad-ass she is, making her all the more bad-ass. She has synesthesia too, and while that's interesting and unique, I still think Brown could have devolved into a preschooler's rainbow-world of red and blue and green and yellow… but I was so pleasantly surprised. Her colorful (literally, colorful) descriptions took me into awesome phrases like "ragemonster red" and "brown mist, bruise-violet swirls, sickly green waves" that wed colors to emotions. Nikki's brand of synesthesia is actually intuitive or maybe psychic—her colors can help her spot a liar or a skeptic or even an imminent death. I call it Cheater's Synesthesia, but Brown just calls it Nikki. And I liked it.
Brown falls prey to a couple of amateur writing traps that drive me nuts—her antagonist "bares her teeth," and her protagonist "squints" when she's peering closely or narrowing her eyes. I edit the hell out of both of those mannerisms when I am reading my clients' rough drafts, and I hope Brown's editor doesn't let her get away with them either. Also, I never fully followed some of the family drama and who was whose stepmother, but maybe that was intentionally left vague…? It didn't really matter, since the main thrust of the story was clear and intense and emotive. And very, very colorful.
Rating: 5/5 Stars