Author: Saundra Mitchell
Genre: YA Fiction, Paranormal/Supernatural
Publication Date: 2010
Best friends Iris and Collette have spent their entire lives in the tiny town of Ondine, Louisiana. Nothing ever happens there, and even less happens during the summer. So the girls have spent each of the previous 13 summers making magic. They’ve even written down their spells — things like “Werewolf potion” and “Potion of everlasting life.” But tonight, Iris will be adding one more to the book:
How to Talk to the Dead.
Iris has seen something. Someone. A flash of movement, a pair of dark eyes, and a single whispered question, “Where y’at, Iris?”
Someone is trying to contact Iris, to tell her something. A missing teen, a terrible secret, and people who will do anything to keep the truth hidden. Iris’ journey will be anything but child’s play.
Nothing ever happens in Ondine, Louisiana. Until now.
After thinking about and listing my favorite book settings a week or so ago, I got re-interested in Louisiana as a setting. I visited New Orleans in high school (pre-Hurricane Katrina), and fell in love with the city, its vibrancy and history and magic. It really is a mystical place, one that lends itself to ghost stories.
Ondine, however, is not a magical place. And so best friends Iris and Collette have always had to create magic for themselves. But they’re 14 years old now, and Iris is starting to wonder if their days of playing make believe are behind them. So it’s with a healthy dose of skepticism that Iris joins Collette in the town cemetery to “talk to the spirits.”
It is in a moment of chilling clarity, when a voice whispers, “Where y’at, Iris?” that Iris begins to reconsider whether it is wise to meddle with the dead. Elijah Landry was gone years before she was born, anyway — what does the mystery of his disappearance have to do with her?
But there’s no going back now. Iris now sees Elijah everywhere: in her dreams, lounging in a booth at a restaurant. Her spell book is soon filled with a stranger’s scrawling penmanship. It is apparent that Elijah has something to say, and he has chosen Iris as his messenger.
Spooky and ensnaring
If I had to describe Shadowed Summer in a single word, it would be “tense.” I first thought, much like Iris, that the characters were just imagining things, scaring themselves with shadows. Slowly but surely, though, both Iris and the reader come to realize that what they’re dealing with is most definitely not a figment of the imagination.
Once Iris and the reader realize the truth, both are trapped on the same journey, with only each other as companions. I was just as frightened by some of the situations as Iris is, and several times I had to take a quick break from reading to remind myself that it’s just a book.
Shadowed Summer will have you guessing until the last possible moment. And even though it all “works out” in the end (it is Young Adult, after all), the almost comically mundane resolution leaves more questions than it answers. The mystery of what happened to Elijah Landry might be solved, but the mystery of how he communicated with Iris remains. Maybe it was just magic.
“We found magic everywhere, in the trees and the wind, in teacups and rainstorms. We were bigger than Ondine, better than the ordinary people who came and went and never stopped to wonder what lay beneath the church’s tiger lilies to give them such bloodred hearts.” (p. 2)
What book gives you the spooks? Is there one you can’t read at night?