Shade Me (Nikki Kill #1)
By: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: January 19th, 2016
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?
As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.
Shade Me is one of the most original books I’ve read. Not that originality automatically means a fantastic book, but in this case it definitely did. The writing was excellent, the characters were fantastic, the heroine flawed, the love interest far from perfect, and the villains were adequately menacing. For me, Nikki’s synesthesia, and how it was related to the reader, was the element that would make or break the novel. Fortunately, its portrayal made this a five star read.
Not only was the incorporation of synesthesia original, but the author’s portrayal of such a unique way of seeing things was never overused or a plot point only brought up to legitimize a leap from one clue to the next. Jennifer instead seamlessly works its explanation and the role the synesthesia plays into the narrative, making it a part of Nikki’s worldview and never forgetting to balance the good and bad that it brings.
Looking at the plot as a whole, I love a good mystery and Nikki’s dogged determination to figure out why Peyton called her in her moment of need definitely fit the bill. The secrets were complex, and not in your face, and while certain characters were obviously sketchy, their role in the plot and in Peyton’s attack was never obvious. Nikki is also a competent character, who made logical leaps, and she is more than capable of handling herself.
As for the love interest, which happens to be Peyton’s brother Dru, he is multilayered and while he may look like a Hollywood darling on the surface, with good looks and his life of power and money before him, his interior facets begin to show a rather weak individual. The other characters range from the sharks that make up the rest of the Hollis family, to Peyton’s bandmates, to Detective Martinez, whose relationship with Nikki may or may not be something more in future books. Each character was well developed for the role they played and all were flawed even if it may not have been initially obvious.
Shade Me is a great start to a new series that had no cliffhangers, but left just enough mystery to carry over into the next book. I can’t wait to read what happens to Nikki next and am left wondering, and anticipating, the mystery she’ll get wrapped up in next.
Jennifer Brown is the author of acclaimed young adult novels, Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, and Torn Away. Her debut novel, Hate List, received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Her debut middle grade novel, Life on Mars, was released in 2014, and her second middle grade novel, How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel will be released in summer 2015. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Jennifer Scott.Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were provided by Itching for Books Tours. Neither belong to us. A free copy of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.