Why is Nikki Kill receiving calls from the hospital about someone she doesn’t know?  What does Nikki’s synthesia have to do with it? More on this upcoming myster/thriller after the jump.

From the book flap:

 The first book in bestselling author Jennifer Brown’s thrilling suspense series for fans of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, Shade Me is about a unique girl who becomes entangled in a mysterious crime and lured into a sexy but dangerous relationship with a boy who may be a suspect.

Nikki Kill has always been an outsider. Born with rare synesthesia, she sees the world differently. In Nikki’s eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray.

To Nikki, Peyton Hollis, the ultrarich it-girl at school, was seemingly untouchable. That is, until Peyton is violently attacked and the only phone number the hospital finds in Peyton’s cell is Nikki’s. Suddenly Nikki is pulled into Peyton’s glittering, fast-paced world as she tries to unravel an unfolding conspiracy.

As Nikki gets closer to the dark truth—and to Peyton’s gorgeous older brother—the only thing she can be sure of is death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

 

Overall:  I read this article earlier this week about how there should be no taboos in YA writing and it completely put Shade Me into perspective for me.  Jennifer Brown brings you to the edge of the decency and just shoves you over.  This book is a Novela for gringos–money, power, sex, drugs, prostitutes, Single White Female, teenage dropouts, conveniently absentee parents, bad influences, madames.  It has it all the elements my Mami would love it if they made a TV show out of this dramatic mystery on Telemundo.  A few specific examples:

  • Nikki has sex in the victim’s bed with someone she just met the day before at the victim’s bedside
  • Nikki does not report evidence that she comes across–this is MAJOR evidence
  • Don’t look too closely at the family tree–you will literally need to draw a diagram
  • Nikki isn’t just on academic probation, she couldn’t care less about school or having a future because she is on a mission
  • For not having any interest in wealth, Nikki sure is obsessed by upscale labels and even the smell of wealthier people

This book, which promised to thrill with a highly unusual premise, played out like a shallow soap opera .  At almost 450 pages, the read can feel arduous and redundant.  It’s almost as though this book was intentionally trite to introduce the characters and a basic premise that will be fleshed out in future novels.  With so many great books still to read from 2015 and 2016, you could probably skip this one and not miss it.

Judge a Book by its Cover:  I love how Nikki’s synthesia is represented on the cover as a vibrant mix of colors swiping down from her eyes in an otherwise black and white photograph.  It’s a perfect representation of her condition. However, I have seen a similar cover much better executed and it eclipses it in every way:

Kiss Kill Vanish
Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Me Talk Pretty:  “I didn’t get my beach house in Monaco by wearing turtlenecks, if you get my drift.”  UGH.

Kick-Ass Factor: Nikki will kick your ass, so you better watch out.  I’m pretty torn about this because while I love reading about strong women who can take care of themselves, I think Nikki may be slightly psychopathic, or maybe just overly violent and impulsive–maybe she should be behind bars?  The wicked joy I would normally feel of reading about her kicking someone’s ass is reduced when I’m too busy thinking that maybe she just enjoys the rush of violent feelings and isn’t just using her strength as a last resort or to save her life, but to abuse the power of all those martial arts lessons.  Ultimately, glorifying someone on the verge of dropping out of school and who doesn’t seem to really care about school or her future puts all her actions into doubt–especially those that mark her as a straight-up thug.

Body Count:  This book begins with one and it keeps stacking the bodies from there, whether dead or injured, I leave it to you to read the book to find out.

The Chosen One:  Someone as morally grey as Nikki has no right having the insight provided by this form of synthesia.

Just. Why.  My biggest issue with the book is that the world rules weren’t consistent.  Hell, there were no rules.  We’re told in the first line of the book that Nikki’s synthesia doesn’t allow emotions and feelings to be read on a screen, but, multiple times, she sees colors and has feelings about phone numbers and texts that appear on her phone.  In addition, there were some pretty convoluted complications that I never fully understood.  I had several head-scratching, turning back a few pages moments where two conflicting facts fought out and confusion won.  These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg in inconsistencies in this novel.

Open tab/Last call: This is the first of a trilogy and while it didn’t completely wow me, I’m willing to show up for some happy hour specials when Brown releases Book #2.

Shade Me by Jennifer Brown will be released on January 19, 2016.  Katherine Tegan Books, 448 pages.  You can preorder it from Inkwood Books.

~Carmen

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