Title: Shade Me
Author: Jennifer Brown
Synopsis: Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.
Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.
The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?
Huge thank you to Katherine Tegen Books / Harper Collins Canada for the ARC!
I am SO disappointed. I wanted to love this book so badly and alas it wasn’t meant to be. It had EVERYTHING going for it for me: synesthesia, kick-ass fighter girl, intriguing mystery… but sadly none of that really worked out well.
First I have to say that I felt like this story would have possibly worked better with a much older cast of characters. Possibly out of college 20-somethings. Ultimately I just felt like it was being forced into being a YA when it really should have been an adult (or even NA) mystery-thriller.
Anyways, Nikki Kill, our kick-ass MC, has synesthesia. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when your sense get kinda mixed up. Some people can see colors when they look at numbers or letters. When I was younger I was able to taste smells (like foods wold taste like the smell of something… I kinda outgrew it) so I always love reading books that deal with synesthesia. Nikki’s was the kind where she looks at numbers and letters and can see colors. She could also see colors connected to emotions. This… didn’t really work for me. It seemed a little too magical at times… like she was able to “predict” things by looking at people and seeing colors. idk. It just really felt a little far fetched at times. Then later on we find out that there’s another person running around with synesthesia who can apparently see the same colors ad Nikki does? I’m… pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. I don’t think that two people with synesthesia can experience things exactly the SAME WAY.
The mystery in this book was also not as mysterious as I’d originally thought it would be and hoped for. Everything felt so thinly connected and some of the conclusions that Nikki would jump to and have actually BE RIGHT just seemed to random and far fetched and just like really??? When we get to the BIG REVEAL I was just rolling my eyes so hard. And like every time Nikki would find a clue she was always like I KNOW BLAH BLAH BLAH with so much damn confidence that I was like ‘really? How do you KNOW?’ it was just really annoying.
The love interest was dumb too. I hated how quickly things went and how there was no development and suddenly there was ~love~. Just… Nikki was supposed to be this cold hearted bitch loaner chick and despite having no friends she has guys falling all over her. And wtf was up with the creepy detective? He kept following her around and wanting to take care of her and there was so much weird sexual tension and just… ew. I don’t care that she was 18 and legal, that dude had to at least be late 20s early 30s!
And the pretend to be a prostitute to get information crap… just again more no. More this is way too old for its characters.
Ugh so much ugh. Around page 350 I just wanted to put it down but kept going with the hope that something shocking was going to happen and it just never did.
If I could describe Shade Me in two words, it would be ‘hot mess.’ The premise of this book is what drew me to it, and if I’m being honest, I spent a lot of this book so razzled and confused as to what the author was eventually trying to get at. Was this a noir? A thriller? An urban fantasy novel? Contemporary? It blends a variety of genres in terms of its presentation, but doesn’t excel at any of them.
I loved the concept of synesthesia, and that was what drew me to the story. However, I felt so confused in its usage during the novel. There were so many moments where I totally understood what Brown was using it for, and other moments where I was like “Okay… what?” and that really bugged me. I felt like I couldn’t connect to Nikki or how she saw the world, no matter how hard I tried as I read the book. It didn’t help that Nikki is such a bland character who just makes poor decisions (which is cool, she’s a teen, it’s allowed), but they are decisions where they are just odd or made me uncomfortable? There’s one scene in particular and as I was reading it on my way home from work that just made me go “WHO DOES THAT?!” to the point where I texted my co-blogger said response.
I think if the characters had been presented a bit older, like they were in college, I think aspects of this novel would have worked so much better. Horribly, I just didn’t like any of the characters, their motives felt shallow, and the plot just comes across to messy at times. A lot of the connections are hanging by tiny threads, and it’s just frustrating given how interesting the premise is.
It’s like wasted potential, especially given that we are told one think about NIkki’s emotions (how she is unfeeling) and yet she feels so much. Yet, there were times I admit, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I think with it being such a hot mess, part of me needed to see where this story was going to go. To be fair, I actually genuinely enjoyed the last forty pages or so, as I was completely engaged, and it was a solid, if predictable ending.
While this is my first Jennifer Brown novel, Shade Me has not deterred me from reading her back catalogue. I wish this had been a much more cohesive novel, instead of the confusing mess that it is. I think this novel will appeal to some readers, just don’t go into it thinking you’re getting a straight-laced thriller, because it just fumbles at any sort of genre convention it attempts to replicate. This isn’t a bad novel, but I admit, I think I hyped it up way more in my head, and was left sorely disappointed.