Review: “Shade Me” by Jennifer Brown

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Shade Me is the story of Nikki Kill, a high school student who happens to have synesthesia, a sensory condition that associates colors with things like numbers or sounds. When Nikki gets a phone call asking for help, she’s drawn into solving an attempted murder case and her synesthesia is vital in her detective discoveries. The victim is Nikki’s classmate Peyton Hollis, daughter of Hollywood royalty and someone with whom Nikki has barely interacted. Shade Me takes us on Nikki’s journey to find out the truth of what happened to Peyton and why Nikki has been pulled into her life.

I enjoyed Shade Me. I’ve always been fascinated by synesthesia, and while I can’t say whether or not the portrayal of the condition is accurate, I liked the role it played in Nikki’s story. If I had to guess, some of what Nikki is able to figure out due to her synesthesia is probably an exaggeration but it worked well for the plotline. I also appreciated that the author didn’t skim over the difficulties Nikki had when she was younger in being diagnosed and dealing with a rare condition on her own. That part of Nikki’s life doesn’t play a huge role in the story but I appreciated its presence nonetheless.

I liked peeling away the layers of Nikki’s story and how it related to Peyton and the attack. Nikki is not the most charming of characters and definitely makes some stupid decisions. However, there were enough things keeping me interested despite Nikki’s stubborn attitude. And while it may not be possible in real life, I found it fun to imagine being able to solve crimes using synesthesia.

As much as I enjoyed Shade Me, there were a few things that detracted from my enjoyment. A lot of the plot felt predictable to me – there were some twists I wasn’t expecting but I was able to guess enough that it’s worth noting. Nikki’s relationship with Peyton’s brother Dru escalated quickly and felt kind of gross given the circumstances. Her relationship with the detective was also kind of uncomfortable given the age difference and situation.

Jennifer Brown definitely leaves us on a cliffhanger. The ending of Shade Me is not entirely what I was hoping for (in terms of who will still be around for book 2) and I’m hoping that a few characters will somehow re-emerge in the next part of Nikki’s story. There are definitely things I was left wanting to know more about: Nikki’s mom and her role, the connection between Peyton and Nikki, and what in the world the Hollis family is up to. A lot of elements have been set up for further exploration and I’d like to see some resolution for Nikki.

Shade Me was a quick read – I flew through it in 24 hours. While not entirely unpredictable, the addition of synesthesia to a YA mystery novel is a unique twist and Brown’s writing is immersive and keeps you invested in the story. I’m looking forward to – hopefully– getting more answers in the next book. Shade Me is worth checking out if you’re looking for a quick mystery read.

Rating: 7/10

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Lauren is a 20-year-old student living in Northern Virginia. She loves to read YA books and watch movies. Lauren is passionate about many things, but reading has always been a huge part of her life. Ever since she first learned to read, her parents have always had to pry books out of her hands when it’s time for other commitments. Lauren loves everything from The Hunger Games and Divergent, to Percy Jackson, mysteries like State of the Onion, and other YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, and is always eager to try a new book, author, or series. She also loves music, public health, Harry Potter, and the Washington Capitals. Follow her on Twitter: @LWengrovitz.