Hardcover, 183 pages, $15.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Adolescent angst leads to supernatural suspense set in the sultry South in Shadowed Summer. In this poignant and evocative tale, two girls in their early teens are catapulted into a decades old mystery. The boredom they feel from living in a very small town leads them to unwittingly unleash an unquiet spirit. The ghost haunts Iris, the novel’s first person narrator. As Iris and her best friend Collette try to understand and deal with the haunting, their friendship is tested. The strain of growing up, getting a crush on the same guy, and trying to lay a revenant to rest are tough burdens for such small shoulders. Author Saundra Mitchell writes of the pains of transition and teen trauma with a keen and shrewd understanding. This young adult ghost story has an appeal beyond its target market.
In the town of Ondine, population of around 300, there are secrets and unresolved emotions. People are closed and closeted when queried about Elijah, a young man who disappeared in the 1980s. Iris becomes suspicious and frustrated when she realizes her father was a school friend of the missing boy, and yet won’t be candid about their relationship. Elijah’s ghost becomes more aggressively persistent, wreaking emotional havoc on Iris: “He threw my spellbook toward me, and its white pages rose and fell like a bird’s wings before it landed silently in my lap. The book flipped over and spread itself open again. A red drop splattered in the middle of the page, and I reached up to scrub at my nose as the blood smear crawled across the page and formed neat block letters.” This is a particularly chilling passage since Elijah was said to suffer from nosebleeds. It is an eerie element, and a disarmingly different application of the overused message written in blood.
Shadowed Summer is certainly written for young adults. Its focus and concerns are about them. Saundra Mitchell respects her youthful readers, and comprehends the complexities of their time of life. In doing so, she also has created a novel that is not bound by an age group or by demographics. Who doesn’t remember their first kiss or feeling the dread of change and yet, simultaneously, the desire for it? This spectral story is insightful and eloquent; the ache of youth is remarkably rendered.