Title: Shade Me
Author: Jennifer Brown
Summary: When the popular girl is murdered, Nikki feels strangely drawn toward the case, even getting entangled with the girl's sexy older brother.
First Impressions: Meh. I know she's supposed to be Tough and Independent but she was awfully cagey with the cop for no reason. And the book treated synaesthesia like a superpower or something. Just weird and unsatisfying.
Later On: Generally I really like Jennifer Brown's stories. She focuses tightly on characters and character development, and how relationships grow and change, especially under the pressure of horrible situations.
This shift to a more plot-heavy mystery didn't work at all for me, especially since the things that were so strong in her other stories suffered for Plot Reasons. We never meet the murdered girl, but somehow Nikki felt a connection, even though her assessment of the murdered girl before she was murdered was decidedly negative. There was a romantic subplot and I know I was supposed to feel a connection to it and to the romantic lead (whose name I can't even remember), but I really didn't.
I know it's fashionable, especially in noir stories, to mistrust the police, but I couldn't figure out any earthly reason for her not to bring the cop in on her suspicions, even partially. He wasn't actively undermining her, gaslighting her, or at any time seemed to be one of the bad guys. In fact, he kept coming around to say, "Look, can I help? I'm doing this; this is my actual job and I'm really trying to do it here. I have information, do you have information?" And she would say no because . . . suspense?! It was unsatisfying.
Finally, my issue with the use of Nikki's synesthesia. Brown did acknowledge it as something that has given Nikki learning difficulties, but it also functioned as a magical signpost to Things That Were Important to the mystery, and a connection to the murdered girl, who (minor spoiler) had synesthesia herself. But my understanding, which because I'm not a neuroscientist is not
exactly thorough, is that synesthesia works differently for different
people. How could the dead girl possibly have known what would jump out at Nikki and what wouldn't? Just a little too convenient.
I'll read Brown's next book, but only if it's not a noir mystery.
More: Kirkus Reviews
Disability in Kidlit on repackaging disabilities as superpowers, which is not always a bad thing, but annoyed me in this book