Friday, March 21, 2014

Jennavier Recommends the Shade Trilogy by Jerri Smith-Ready
I read a lot of books and they mostly blur together. When I find a new-to-me author that I’m dying over I can’t wait to share. One of my favorite YA trilogies of the past year is the Shade series by Jerri Smith-Ready. That includes Shade, Shift, and Shine. Yes, the titles are very matchy-matchy. At least they’re not hard to remember! I loved it both as a reader and as a writer trying to pick up new tricks.

First off the characters really make this series amazing. I loved them all. Aura’s voice is so genuine that she felt almost real to me. Her trials and troubles were both authentic to a teenage girl while still being interesting to the adult part of my brain. The supporting cast each had their own unique voice and personalities. I don’t think there was a single character that felt like a set-dressing until the third book.

This series has the worst luck in covers. They look 80’s bondage porn. I guess it means that everyone who is willing to read them goes in with an open mind, but if I were in the art department I would be a little concerned. For all that the covers in no way portray the actual story there are some elements that I would be wary of. This series has some PG-13 stuff that might make you uncomfortable. I felt like it was handled mostly well but book three almost steamed me out of the experience. So read at your own risk! concept that the world is based on is just fun. Picture this. Every baby born after the Shift seventeen years ago can see ghosts. And more people are becoming ghosts than ever. After refusing to believe the ‘shifters’, or kids born post Shift, for years adults are now dependent on teens to tell them about a world they can’t see. This is used in all sorts of interesting ways like lawsuits of the dead against the living with teen interpreters, ‘blackboxes’ and other technology made to repel ghosts, and a past that is never really left behind.

Aura deals with all that and more as she navigates the story. It has two major elements. The first is Aura’s confusing past and the possibility of her being the First, or the first baby born after the shift. The second is the event that kicks off the book. Her pretty serious boyfriend dies of an overdose and is now a ghost. Both are compelling and well handled. As the series progresses the different plot threads become more and less important. Luckily none are completely forgotten and all are resolved satisfactorily. To my relief Smith-Ready has a fascinating take on the good ol’ love triangle. Aura is still hung up on her dead ex-boyfriend who is now a ghost at the same time as wanting to move on with a living guy. Instead of feeling forced or contrived it was a natural extension of the world where ghosts are real. series avoids letdowns in new instalments by having each book have a story line in and of itself. That keeps the series fresh while also making me enjoy each book on it’s own terms. It’s not often that a YA debut series is handled so well. Serious kudos go to Smith-Ready.

Lastly I have huge respect for how Smith-Ready handles some pretty traumatic incidents. She doesn’t use these horrific experiences as shock value for readers. Instead she takes the characters seriously, giving them chances to grow even as they struggle. Her commitment to that led to a free novella that I haven’t gotten the chance to read. It’s from the perspective of a secondary character that has a tragic experience off screen. Instead of pretending that it’s all happily ever after Smith-Ready is showing the work that this character puts into finding a new equilibrium.

Well, that’s all folks. If this sounds like a good series for you I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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