Shadowed Summer

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 8:01 PM

Rating: 3/5 stars

Iris grew up in Ondine, Louisiana, a little one-stoplight town where nothing ever happens, and she begins the sweltering summer by casting spells and raising ghosts in the graveyard with her friend Collette. Just like always -- except this time the ghost talks back.

It's Elijah Landry, the town's only mysterious incident: the story of the seventeen-year-old boy who disappeared one summer night, leaving only a few drops of blood on his pillow. Now Elijah seems to want Iris's attention, leading her on a chase to dig up his story -- but in the process, she stirs up her community too, raising long-buried prejudices and unspoken griefs, and unraveling a mystery that ties back to her own father's childhood secrets.

If you wanted to be snappy, you could call this a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Sixth Sense -- but that only covers the superficial elements of small-town intrigue and dead people. This book feels like a coming-of-age tale, and it is, but it doesn't come near the classics in capturing the confusion, possibility, and bittersweet aching loss of growing up.

A lighter read, it does a good job of drawing sympathetic characters and sketching the scene of a tiny town during a humid, hectic summer. But I was disappointed in the ghost aspect of the story -- Elijah seemed too flat and distant to matter much, even with all the poltergeist-ey hijinks that he pulls. We hear about him only secondhand, through stories and old photographs. That's probably the point because the story is more about the community and how people cope with horror and tragedy, but Elijah just felt too dead to matter much. (Har har). Iris is a solid companion for the trip, at least, and keeps a firm backbone through her own personal haunting.

Good summer read for a lazy, hot afternoon.

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