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Happy October, fellow spooks! It’s that time of year again where we naturally gravitate towards the dark side of literature. And luckily for you, the book that I’m reviewing today ticks all the boxes. It’s a super creepy haunted house thriller by none other than Tiffany D. Jackson! What I love about Jackson is that she can pack a whole bunch of punches into her books. White Smoke, her first venture into horror, was no different!
Many thanks to Harper360 for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
by Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date of Publication: 30th September 2021
Format: Paperback (374 pages)
My Rating: Liked it!
The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!
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.
- Drug overdose/suspected suicide
- Drug use (marijuana)
- Body horror
- Racism and the criminalisation of people of colour
- Anxiety – especially bed bugs
Okay so… I’m going to start at the end, if that’s okay? The ending is very Twilight Zone-esque which makes sense as the author cites a classic episode of the show as partial inspiration for this book. It’s open-ended with audience having to make their own conclusions about what happens next. In all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It’s not that I wanted everything wrapped up with a tiny bow. More that, weeks later, I’m STILL overthinking the fates of the secondary characters.
On the topic of anxiety, Jackson perfects the anxiety representation to the point that I have had to add bed bugs to my list of never-ending anxieties. Now, Marigold’s coping mechanisms aren’t exactly healthy (CW: substance abuse) but the fact remains that they are some people’s reality. And without getting into a discussion of whether or not weed should be legalised, there are definitely health benefits involved for a wide range of people.
I also think that the people around Marigold could have been more supportive. She’s been through a lot, she’s still learning how to navigate life with mental illness and it felt like the majority of people were against her. I guess that’s the point with mental illness – you can’t know what someone is going through but assumptions can be incredibly toxic and harmful.
As for things that are toxic, this town that Jackson has built is ANOTHER LEVEL. The townsfolk are unwelcoming. There’s only one house on this street, the rest have been burnt down and abandoned. The community is super racist and determined to criminalise people of colour. And that’s not even all – there are A LOT of layers beyond this being a haunted house story.
Overall, I did really enjoy White Smoke but felt that the ending let it down a bit. I loved the intense feelings of dread that I got while reading and some moments are intense in their creep factor. So again, if you’re looking for a spooky read – add this one to your TBR!