The people of Nightshade, California, are dying in their sleep, and fifteen-year-old warrior Jessica Walsh is determined to find the killer . . . or killers. Justice isn’t the only thing on Jessica’s mind, however. In fact, some days she’s not sure which is worse—having a creepy clown lurking outside her window or having her rock star boyfriend’s hot ex-girlfriend back in town. Nightshade is crawling with paranormal people like Jessica . . . and it’s possible that the anti-paranormal group the Scourge is back to get rid of them. Or are the disturbing works of a strange painter somehow at the heart of the mystery? Jessica is losing sleep—but she’s got to figure it out before the night terrors strike again.
It got chilly on the beach at night. Cold sand between my toes made me shiver. I got up and threw another log on the fire.
—ARC paperback edition
There is a curiously inviting familiarity to Jessica, her fellow virago warrior women, and Nightshade, the quaint town populated with every conceivable monster and myth. The writing, plot, and characters won’t present any intellectual, social, or emotional challenge, but neither do they offend or belittle the audience for enjoying them.
While the central mysteries to the plot are either easy to figure out (which, correctly solving the twists makes for great ‘ah ha!’ moments), some of the side plots are not given enough info for the reader to guess at their solution. Others peek out and promise more interesting interactions that hopefully will have their due in subsequent tales. There is a goldmine of emotion waiting for Jessica: the distance that Flo, her mentor, is putting between them; her soon-to-be-touring boyfriend; and said boyfriend’s back-in-town elite virago mother.
For those picking up Jessica’s story for the first time, the short length plus the breakneck-speed of the plot could equal many unanswered questions. Old plots and characters from prior novels are name-dropped in vaguely irrelevant cameos. A smaller cast and tighter story-line (with less plots) would do wonders for this eighth installment—that or a larger page count, the better to immerse readers in the world of Nightshade.
Appropriate for ages 12+. Light violence, talk of death, creepy imagery. Clean-cut in language and actions.
Touches on the nature of fear, responsibility, changing relationships, growing up/apart and sticking together.
GET IT ON YOUR SHELF:
– Enjoy a quick, pleasant distraction
– Need more Veronica Mars meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories
– Are ready for the next step after R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike books
– Have caught up on the other Dead Is… books
YA paranormal mystery
Hardcover & Ebook, 176 pages
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Harcourt Children’s Books (ISBN 0544102622)
(Review copy provided by Karen Walsh at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Cover illustration reprinted courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.)