WHITE SMOKE by Tiffany D. Jackson
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Mari’s mom insists that the move from California to Cleveland was her choice, an opportunity to enjoy an author’s fellowship, to revitalize a decaying neighborhood, and to bond as a newly-blended family. But Mari knows it’s really all because of her. If it hadn’t been for her drug habit, their old town wouldn’t have shunned them. If they hadn’t needed to pay for rehab, they wouldn’t need a rent-free place to live. And if her stepfather could see her as anything other than an addict, maybe he wouldn’t always take his own daughter’s side instead of hers. Maybe.
It isn’t long after they arrive in their new home that Mari realizes something is off. Their immediate neighborhood is entirely deserted, boarded up except for the house where they’ll be living. And the houses aren’t the only things that are falling apart. The people in the surrounding town seem both hostile and beaten down. Everyone has at least one family member in prison for a marijuana offense, most claiming that their loved ones were set up by the cops. And perhaps even more sinister is the way Mari’s stepsister has been acting, and her claim that she has a friend living in the boarded-up house next door, a friend who hates Mari and is plotting her revenge. The slick white man who set up the author’s fellowship dismisses all of Mari’s concerns as nonsense, and her stepfather clearly agrees with him. Even Mari’s mother thinks she’s lying and picking on her stepsister.
But then the ghosts wake up…
Jackson makes her pivot from psychological thrillers to horror look easy in this ghostly, unputdownable novel about a girl overcoming fears and prejudices to take on both supernatural and human threats to her family and community. As in all of Jackson’s work, the characters are multifaceted, the family and community dynamics complex, and the social justice themes prominent, accessible, and timely. Fans of YA horror and/or psychological thrillers will not want to miss WHITE SMOKE! If depictions of marijuana use won’t turn off your gatekeepers, this title could work well in teen book clubs, too.