By Saundra Mitchell
Available now from Delacorte BFYR (Penguin)
Iris and Colette are bored of small-town Louisiana. They're too old to be happy hanging out at the Dairy Queen and too young to drive anywhere more interesting. So they hang about places with atmosphere like the cemetary and cast "spells." It's just play-acting fun until Iris actually encounters a ghost - a breeze and a male voice asking "Where y'at, Iris?"
Logically, Iris wants to know who the voice belongs to and what he wants, especially as his attempts to get her attention become more petulant and violent. (Understandable given the age he died and why.) Before his attempts become more noticeable she's more interested in proving to herself that she's not going crazy. She enlists bestie Collette and platonic male friend Ben to help solve the mystery of Elijah's disappearance. Of course hormones get in the way of that since both girls are kind of interested and Ben encourages both by being a generally nice guy and they're all young teens, bored in the summer.
I saw the twist(s) about Elijah's death coming, but I think that says more about a certain type of book I read rather than the quality of the writing. And I think Saundra Mitchell's description of his behavior towards Iris is supposed to key the conclusion I came to. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Some of it was needing something to relax with after the hell week before Spring Break; the rest was SHADOWED SUMMER reminding me of the books I read in elementary like Mary Downing Hahn's I'LL COME TO YOU BY MOONLIGHT.
I've only been to Louisiana briefly (with no intentions to stay longer), but Saundra Mitchell captures my impression of the state. (At least, the fact that no one there can drive is intact. Seriously, driving through Louisiana sucks.) People's tempers do get shorter during the longest days of summer. It does have several notable graveyards as well.
Those expecting SHADOWED SUMMER to be scary might be disappointed, as it's more creepy than anything. The mystery plot is done well, mingling with the other events in the books. I really liked Iris and Ben's relationship - I thought it progressed naturally and made sense that Iris didn't like it as she couldn't take it further. The brevity makes it more suitable to elementary and junior high readers, though teens will probably enjoy SHADOWED SUMMER if they pick it off the library shelves.
You can find out more at the SHADOWED SUMMER website as well as Mitchell's website and blog. The book is available now, though only in hardcover. Mitchell is also a screenwriter. She's a member of the 2009 Debutantes - I'm reading all sorts of debut books this year!