Kenneth W. Cain
JournalStone Publishing (November 12, 2021)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
Nita is a teenager who has just moved to a new town with her parents. In addition to dealing with all the trials and tribulations of moving to a new school, trying to make friends as “the new girl,” and being bullied on the bus, Nita is terrified. Every time she tries to fall asleep, she starts hearing strange noises and seeing shadows moving in the corners of her room. Then a weird little stuffed gorilla they found in the attic starts showing up. Then things start getting really ominous, and Nita realizes that there really are things that go bump in the night in her new home and they’re definitely out to get her. She can’t sleep—how could she when strange beings are creeping around her room at night, seemingly interested in killing her—and that chronic sleep deprivation doesn’t help much with her studies, or efforts to make friends, or get along with her family.
Storm Shadows is filled with lots and lots of very creepy atmosphere throughout. I found the depiction of Nita and her parents—theirs is a close-knit family—and Nita’s experiences in changing schools to making new friends to riding the bus to getting bullied all to be absolutely spot-on. Nita feels real to me in ways that teens written by adults often do not. Unlike a lot of adult authors, who seem to have forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, Cain has his finger on the pulse of those difficult teenage years: what it was like to be misunderstood by parents, teachers, and peers all at the same time, while struggling to find an identity and cope with the many struggles and social anxieties of simply trying to survive in the pressure cooker of high school.
Into this maelstrom of teenage angst and discontent, Cain pours a healthy dose of the supernatural, which begins subtly—strange shadows and noises that only Nita can perceive in her bedroom at night—and then ratchets up significantly over time. There’s genuine menace here; just how high the stakes are is made clear when the first character dies, killed horribly by one of the things pursuing Nita. Tension mounts even further when Nita and her new friend Bobby enter her attic to discover the source of the problems and, well, things shift gears again. This is definitely one of those novels where, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, things shift considerably.
Pacing and action are solid, and Cain’s characterization is top notch. This was a fun one, for both young adult and adult audiences alike. Recommended.