Shadowed Summer, by Saundra Mitchell (2009, Delacorte, 180pp, middle grade/young YA), is an excellent book for reading in August, when summer has gotten old.* Hot, and brown, and nothing much happens...And two fourteen-year old girls in Ondine, Louisiana, a tiny dot on the map, are kicking their heels in a cemetery. Iris and her best friend Collette are trying to make their own excitement by pretending to contact the dead.
"The air felt hot and wet but far away, like the warmth thrown off a campfire. Laid out on Cecily's slab, I should have been sweating and ready for some lemonade, but all I had in me was cold.
I managed to turn my head, but Collette didn't seem me. She looked peaceful, floating on a stone that was as still as her body. For a moment, I was sure she was dead. My chest ached, bound with a scream I couldn't get out, and that was when someone touched my hair.
A creamy flash flash passed in front of me, leaving the shadow of a face made up mostly of dark eyes. Wind kissed my ear, cool and soft, and I heard a voice. It sounded like clover tastes, green and new and sweet.
"Where y'at, Iris?" (page 6)
The game has become real. Years ago, back when Iris' parents were teenagers**, Elijah Landry disappeared. His body was never found, and most folks assumed he just had run off. Now Iris knows different. The ghost of Elijah is stalking her, his friendly greeting gradually giving way to frightening violence.
What happened to Elijah, and why is he haunting Iris?
This is a delightful creepy story. The supernatural and everyday elements are beautifully balanced. Iris, Collette, and Collette's maybe/kind off new boyfriend Ben come to life engagingly as they work out their relationships (in a spot-on 14 year old kid way), and try to solve the mystery. They are never overshadowed by the ghost of Elijah, although the spookiness of the haunting, and the ghost's escalating violence as they come closer to solving the mystery, keep the plot going at a brisk pace. There's a strong sense of place, and the long, hot summer becomes very real. This perhaps makes this a better book for winter reading...but regardless, it is a fine one to give at any time to a 6th-9th grader who likes a good mystery.
Other reviews can be found at In Search of Giants, Malinda Lo, and Juiciliciousss Reviews.
*I am pretending, for the sake of my review's introduction, that this was a normal summer where I live, as opposed to a cold and wet imitation.
**way back in the eighties, when I was a teenager too...