I’m not a fan of first-person narrative in YA fiction these days. There’s nothing wrong with it, but after seeing almost nothing but first-person stories recently I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s overdone and well on its way to being cliché.
Fortunately for me I didn’t dismiss Jeri Smith-Ready’s novel Shade out of hand for following the trend. The character is a whiny teenage girl (like many other protagonists in the YA market) but unlike like most other characters, Smith-Ready’s protagonist Aura has a really good reason to complain. She, and everyone else her age and younger, can see ghosts. And it’s nowhere near as cool as you might think. They get harrassed by the dead who want to settle up before moving on, and when loved ones die as long as the dead hang around the living can’t move on.
Aura’s voice is clear and her intentions and actions kept me going. At no point did I feel like an action was placed there just to move the story along (shoved in with a shoehorn as my fiancé says). Smith-Ready kept me on my toes the whole time. Throughout the whole novel I had an idea as to what was going to happen next and while I was more or less right about the big picture, Smith-Ready slid the plot around under me just enough to keep me unsure of my guesses.
My only complaint about the novel (which isn’t even a complaint really) is that it’s an origin story. And just like most origin stories whether in print or in film, a lot of the book is taken up with setting the stage for events in later books. If this had been a science fiction or epic fantasy novel, I would have expected these seed-sowing moments, but they aren’t as common in urban fantasy, so while I loved the main story, the bigger plot distracted me with questions about relevance to the story-to-be-resolved in the current book.
But, in the end, these questions did the job they needed to. As soon as I finished the last sentence I sent a message off to Smith-Ready asking if there was going to be a second novel.
Which is exactly what any author wants the reader to do: ask for more.