Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.
The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.
But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?
As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.
White Smoke, the latest from the impressively talented young-adult author Tiffany D. Jackson, is a sharp, shudder-inducing new YA horror novel. It bristles with tension from the first page to the last. At first, Jackson follows the standard rules of a haunted house story. She sprinkles in scares and shocks with increasing frequency and intensity, driving Mari to question her sanity and lash out at those closest to her. Making things worse are Mari’s anxiety and drug dependence issues. Is what she’s experiencing real or gaslighting? Or both? I don’t read much horror – it’s too scary! – so there has to be a big draw to get me to set aside my aversion to stress. In this case, the premise and the author were too enticing. I’m so glad I didn’t resist. It was just horriifying enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but not enough to gross me out or give me nightmares.
Read the rest of my review at locusmag.com.
Buy this book at bookshop.org (affiliate link).