Title: White Smoke
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
Published: September 14th, 2021 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Synopsis: Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.
The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its…secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.
But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?
As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.
Thank you to the publisher, Harper Collins, and HCC Frenzy for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Marigold’s family moves to the city of Cedarville, looking forward to a fresh start as Mari still struggles with some recent traumatizing events that she has been through. Though their new house on Maple Street seems lovely, it is surrounded by an extremely run down neighborhood and wary neighbors. Mari soon begins to notice some strange things about the house: doors open on their own, the lights flicker, there are odd shadows and voices, and strangest of all, her brat of a stepsister, Piper, keeps talking about an imaginary friend who wants Mari gone. As the occurrences go from strange to dangerous, Mari begins to learn that Cedarville has many secrets, and the happenings at her new house are somehow connected to it all.
This was my first time reading a book by this author, although Grown is on my TBR, so I was really excited to pick this one up. As regular readers will know, I tend to avoid anything even remotely creepy in my reading material – and this was pretty much exactly that, but I was surprised with how much I enjoyed that arc of the story. Personally though, as interesting as the ghost and haunting bit was, the bigger story was about the gentrification of the neighborhood and the frankly horrifying depths to which the corporate institutions and even the local government was willing to descend to in order to get it done. That was clearly the much more important arc of the book, yet I felt like it got lost amidst the haunted house problems.
The pacing was decent once the initial set up was done, and this was very easy to binge read. The mood and atmosphere of the story was the best part in my opinion, and the way the strange happenings in the house were described nearly had me convinced there was actually some kind of evil spirit living there. The writing perfectly complements this and I really enjoyed the narration style.
This story felt largely plot driven, but Marigold was quite a complex personality and though she is the narrator, I felt like we didn’t get as much depth into her character as we could have. It’s also pretty obvious very early on that Mari has problems with anxiety and she hasn’t really gotten over the traumatizing events she has been through, and everyone in her family knows that, yet they don’t seem to be giving her any real support or addressing the root cause of the issue, much less looking for any ways to help her. I was really annoyed at how they kept villainizing her instead, painting her as a junkie when it’s clearly explained why she resorted to it.
This, along with the ending was what lowered my rating for this book. Compared to how much time was spent on setting up the story, the ending was very abrupt and leaves so much unresolved that I double checked to see if this was part of a series. Mari’s situation with her family is left unaddressed too.
This is the first time I’ve seen a YA horror/thriller genre also explore social themes, an intriguing combination of genres, and I’d love to read more like this in the future. Even though some aspects of this book didn’t work for me, it would still be a great choice for any horror or thriller fans out there and would make for a perfect Halloween read!
White Smoke releases on September 14th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!