Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

I know I’ve been giving you all lots of very creepy and atmospheric picks this month. I am sorry if that’s not your jam, but I can’t help it—I love filling my October reading list with seasonal books! Since this is the last Friday in October and Sunday is Halloween, I couldn’t resist recommending one more creepy book this month, and then I promise I’ll go back to some lighter picks!

CW: Racism, allusions to child sexual abuse (nothing detailed), rioting, arson, anxiety, addiction and drug use (marijuana)

White Smoke cover image

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is best known for her incredible mysteries and thrillers, but White Smoke is her first foray into the horror scene! It follows Mari, a California girl who relocates with her newly blended family (which includes a new white step-dad and very annoying little step-sister Piper) to a Midwestern town that is hoping for some rejuvenation. Her writer mom has won a residency with a free newly renovated house as part of the gig. But things are weird from the get-go: the house is the only one on the block that’s not abandoned or condemned. There is a horrible stench in the house that comes and goes. Weird noises come through the vents, and the strangest things go missing. But perhaps worst of all? Piper has an imaginary friend and she tells Mari that her friend wants Mari to get out of her house.

This book is as chilling as it sounds, and one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much was because it did a great job at building tension on multiple levels. Mari has an anxiety disorder which is connected to her past, and something that happened that she’s still very ashamed of. Not only is Mari still struggling to come to terms with her past, but it has caused her parents to lose trust in her. This puts her in a vulnerable position to be starting a new school in a new town, then add on top of that a new step-sister who is out to get her. Between the town’s new vibes and her house’s weird happenings, it’s a lot for Mari to process. When her suspicions and anxiety get the best of her, it seems the less people want to believe her when she uncovers evidence that Piper is purposefully setting her up, and there is a deeper conspiracy in her new town. Jackson understands that not being believed when you think you’re in danger is about as scary as the prospect of a haunted house, and she leverages all of these fears and anxieties to tell a really compelling story about a town with a tragic fall from prosperity and a dark past. And where there are poor, marginalized people trying to make a living, there’s always the predatory rich ready to seize control.

This is a YA novel, but one that I think will definitely appeal to adult and YA readers alike because of its sophisticated take on horror and the dark mysteries in this fictional community. It’s hard to come up with readalikes in the YA field, but I think the closest I can think of is if you want a horror YA version of Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching or a (less gory) horror read in the vein of the new Candyman, this book is for you!

Happy reading, and stay safe this weekend!


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