Book Review: Shade Me

Shade Me
By: Jennifer Brown
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: January 19, 2016
Genre: YA speculative thriller
448 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

I was first introduced to Jennifer Brown at a conference about bullying and its devastating effects on teens. Jennifer spoke powerfully and eloquently on the topic, so I picked up a copy of Hate List. It was amazing. With this background info, when I saw Shade Me become available for review, I jumped at the chance.

I have to start with this main character, because she is pretty incredible. First, her name is Nikki Kill. That might be the best possible name for a teen girl who lives in Hollywood and sets out to solve a mystery in the style of an old-fashioned private eye. She's rough around the edges. She is disinterested in academics, but she's street-smart, with a serious round-house kick. She dumps a guy who is hot enough, but who gets too close to real emotions for her comfort. She's lived through her mother's murder and her father's increasing absence, and has come out ready to take on the world.

Nikki also has synesthesia, which makes her even more unique. I'm choosing not to talk about that aspect much, though, because I feel that story element takes a back seat to Nikki's overall characterization and the thriller plot line.

That thriller plot line is action-packed, and in many ways blurs the lines between YA and adult fiction. While many of the themes are more adult in nature, the real crossover is in the meat of the writing; Nikki may be chronologically seventeen, but she thinks and behaves someone who grew up a long time ago. She takes on the task of finding out what happened to Peyton Hollis out of a sense of responsibility, and she follows each clue to its resolution. She is, in many ways, an adult character in a teen character's body.

I admire Brown's efforts to get the fight scenes just right. That sort of play-by-play description of action scenes isn't my favorite, but Brown does it well enough that I didn't do my usual skip-to-the-next-scene routine; I stayed in the moment with Nikki, and followed the action. I think it was easier for me to relate to because it was important to Nikki; she trains regularly, so the language of defend-attack was meaningful through her point of view. 

It looks like this is the first of a new series. I am excited to follow Nikki into her next adventure. 


Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

Shade Me is award-winning author Jennifer Brown’s first book in a thrilling suspense series about Nikki Kill.


  1. Eeee! This sounds really rad. A protagonist with synesthesia? How is that not a bigger part of the story? I guess because Jennifer Brown just writes the most compelling plot and does get those scenes (fight scenes or otherwise) just perfect <3 Glad to hear she's got another book coming out!


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