Friday, June 19, 2015

Shutter - Courtney Alameda

Summary: Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week. (Summary and pic from

My Review: The first thing that caught me about this book is that it’s scary. It’s not scary like many YA paranormal novels that tend toward the dystopian—ya know, that your whole life is gonna end in one big catastrophic event, i.e. sun spots, nuclear war, zombies, or everyone’s personal favorite, the totalitarian government. No, this book is more scary in the ghostly and creatures from other realms scary. And I liked that, actually. I liked that in this alternate world, these things were accepted and it was normal that ghosts and other entities were around. Other books from this same genre often start out with the assumption that paranormal happenings are rare and not accepted and that part of the struggle is convincing people they exist. I’m still questioning sparkling vampires. It’s not like that in this book. The population at large is well aware of ghosts and otherworldly entities and they understand that there is a special group of people who fight them, both by training and by lineage. And this really was a game changer, actually. The book operated within a realm of “this was already normal.” You have to accept it as the reader because that’s just the way it is. It added an extra layer of complexity that I liked. When civilians or government entities are working with the Special Forces team, they are operating within the law and within the normal society and that just makes everything different.

This book was written by a children’s librarian, and she’s competent in her writing. It isn’t the sometimes-typical drivel of other paranormal teen books (cause hey, let’s just whip those babies out like nuthin’ and start raking in some cold hard cash) and her writing has a proficiency that I really appreciated. The main character is snarky and a little rough, but it’s handled well, and I thought it made her believable. There is some language (because let’s face it, most teens have a little language), but there is no unnecessarily dropped f-bombs or crassness that is just used by lesser writers. And I loved the geeky name dropping throughout the book, even beyond the cool premise that these were the descendents of the original Dracula hunters. I found other paranormal names in there, not necessarily even used in a paranormal sense, and I felt like I was part of the cool kids when I did (Hello Mulder and Scully!).

My one complaint about this book is that there is a steep learning curve in the acronyms and language. Because you are immediately immersed in a society where this organization and ghosts are the norm, Alameda has invented a complete lexicon to go with that. As that is what it would be like to step into that slice of life, those of us living in this paltry existence take a little while to catch up. And I did catch up, although sometimes I still was a little confused about stuff. It didn’t take away from the book, though, I just had to pay attention and refer back a few times as necessary.

So if you’re in the market for a fun paranormal read, this is definitely a good one to check out. I’m hoping she writes another one because there was definitely room for more in this fun world she’s created.

My Rating: 4 stars

For the Sensitive Reader: There is some language and mild sexual content, but it is on par with other books in the genre.

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