Friday, October 22, 2021

Freeform Friday: White Smoke - Tiffany D. Jackson

Summary: Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I was excited to read this book because it’s perfect for the season, wouldn’t you say!? If you don’t read a book about a haunted house during Halloween season, you just didn’t do it right. A few thoughts about things I really enjoyed:

· I liked the main character in this book. She has some mental health issues that at times have had pretty severe consequences, and I feel like this is an important subject to address. With more awareness for mental health issues, hopefully we can reduce the stigma and get help to those who need it. I’m hoping that this book will help some teen readers who may have been reluctant to discuss mental health problems.

· The house in this book is super creepy. I loved it. I love a good, atmospheric read, and the house in this book definitely created that. I think that Jackson did a great job creating an environment that was spooky but also dismissible. Good haunted houses have to be able to disguise themselves otherwise people wouldn’t move in and experience it in the first place. Being incognito is key (keep that in mind, all you haunted houses reading this review).

· I liked how this book had a sinister story backdrop, and one that was convoluted and multi-layered and spanned generations. This gave Jackson an opportunity to examine systemic racism and address it in a way that made it clear and understandable as to how it can be perpetuated. I think sometimes this is a hard concept for people to grasp but reading about it in a story is a perfect venue to discuss it.

A few things I would have liked to be different:

· There was A LOT going on in the different facets of the story. For instance, although I liked the back story about the town and how it addressed systemic racism, there were parts that I think were never clearly explained or explored. For instance—there’s a television preacher whose super creepy, but doesn’t do much else. And there’s a whole thing about buying seeds that was super creepy as well, but it never really went anywhere. It was an opportunity, but one that was not necessarily taken. The main character also experiences anxiety over bed bugs, and although this took up a lot of space in the story, it didn’t really go anywhere or seem to serve any obvious purpose other than just to showcase that she had a very real manifestation of her anxiety.

· I would have liked more exploration of the other characters in the town. There were a lot of interesting stories to be had, but we didn’t really get to see any of them. The book was not short, so I understand that Jackson had to make some decisions about what was included and what wasn’t. I think that this is an overall example of maybe some of the difficulties the story faced—there were a lot of ideas, but not all of them were necessary. When they were crammed in and not fully connected or explored, it just felt like they could have been cut. It wasn’t a red herring situation, it was more like too many ideas that never had space to come to fruition.

Overall, I would say this book had a good creep factor. It isn’t an exceptional story or life-changing, but it does have some good social discussions and of course, a very awesomely creepy haunted house. If I were a teen looking for a creepy Halloween read, I would check this out for sure.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language here and there, discussions of drug use, and some scary horror scenes that are not too excessive for the genre or age group.

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