Shade Me – Jennifer Brown – Nikki Kill #1 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 19 January 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 an intriguing mystery. The suspense starts from the very first page and only increases until you reach the dramatic ending. There are fights, clues, scary night scenes, a whole host of suspicious characters and a fierce, independent main character who can more than hold her own.
I really enjoyed this mystery novel. It read like a perfect crime show, but with more depth and twists. Nikki Kill is dragged into a criminal investigation when she receives a mysterious phone call, which is followed by a call from the hospital asking her to come and identify a girl who has been severely beaten. It seems that Nikki is the only one who can start untangling the complicated web of deceit surrounding Peyton Hollis. But the main question Nikki has is why she has been involved at all.
Nikki is one strong character. Brash, harsh, independent, Nikki is all this and more. She keeps to herself, is almost failing her final year of high school, and has no idea why Peyton, daughter of a famous movie executive and queen of the school, would call her just before being left for dead. Oh, and Nikki has synesthesia. She sees colours for numbers, words or letters. It makes school nearly impossible and it never helped her solve her own mother’s murder. But her ability to see more than is there, make connections others might miss is surprisingly helpful when she tries to piece together what happened to Peyton. While Nikki’s synesthesia is never explained in all that much detail – Nikki herself says it’s really hard to explain – it was easy enough to pick up how it works. While Nikki’s synesthesia is not as cut and dried as the synopsis makes it sound and it seems to have its own rules as to how it works, it does seem realistic, if complicated, as it is used to build and solve the mystery.
Nikki is a mixed-marshal arts fighter and knows how to take care of herself, so she has no trouble getting mixed up in all sorts of dangerous situations. The tension runs high through most of the book, particularly picking up towards the end. And while Nikki is no dumb girl walking blindly into the proverbial scary house, she manages to find herself in some alarming situations. I couldn’t help but think that she should ask the nice policeman for help, tell someone what she knows or not go to meet the person who could be the culprit all by herself. Arghhhh. But her independence and lack of trust only works to build the suspense, and surprisingly I didn’t get annoyed with Nikki. Despite her rough edges she is a likeable character.
I love that this is going to be a series. While the storyline, the mystery is solved by the end of this book (there is no cliffhanger), there is plenty of room for more adventures, more to follow up with this story and more uses for Nikki’s intriguing skills at piecing clues together.
As for romance, I would say there is less of that and more of lust. Again, this too works to develop the storyline rather than becoming one of its own and holds true to Nikki’s character. There is no love triangle, but I have to say I was rooting for the ‘other guy’, who isn’t really even in contention, but I’m really hoping something will develop in the next book. All the signs are there so here’s hoping.
This book is pretty mature in its content, both in the way Nikki speaks and acts and the details of the crime. But it is a complicated and intriguing mystery, made all the better with plenty of suspense. This is a series and a protagonist of which I’m definitely going to want more.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Murder. Family. Crime. Synesthesia. Suspense. Detective.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f***, s***, sk***. Sexual references, implied sexual scenes and references to prostitution. Violence, fights, beatings and attempted murder. Drug and alcohol use and references.
Published: 19 January 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 448 pages.