Review: Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

Series: Nikki Kill #1

shade me -jennifer brownNikki 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.


2.5 Drink Me Potions

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Shade Me comes out January 19, 2016**

It took me a long time to persuade myself to read Shade Me after seeing the drastic negative ratings from reviewers. Now that I’ve actually read it for myself, I can see why it may not have sat well with everyone.

Here’s the background context of the story.

Nikki Kill (cool last name, right?) is a synesthete who associated colours with numbers and letters. Oh boy, I can only imagine how distracting that would be to do math or chemistry with colours floating in the air around it.

Anyway, she likes to be alone for the most part. She has no real friends. This all stems back from her mother’s murder when she was a kid that was never solved. Add into the equation that not everyone believed she had synesthesia, which I find astounding considering it isn’t some unheard of disorder that affects nearly no one, she’s apt to want to stick to herself. Trust and trusting her heart to someone is a huge issue with her. So getting dragged into a whole mess with a super powerful family, the Hollises, was the very opposite of what her life was normally like. Now people were paying attention to her and spreading rumours when her biggest worry previously was to just be able to graduate high school.

So let me break it simply down into what was likeable and what- well – wasn’t.

NOT likeable:
* The absolutely STUPID things Nikki did on her own without backup. She went to creepy abandoned grocery stores at night. ALONE . Hello. Peyton was attacked. If this was the crime scene, would you really wanna be there alone late at night with no one to call for help just in case?
* Oh and stupidity wasn’t limited to where she went. She just HAD to start falling for the one guy who was a suspect in Peyton’s attack from like, the VERY beginning. Just ’cause he’s hot, Nikki, and you see violet everywhere around him, does NOT mean you act on those feelings. You’re a big girl. Think with your head, not your other organs! Every time she went over to Dru’s place ’cause he invited her and she gave wind to the inner warnings in her brain, I wanted to reach into the pages and like, poke her. Hard.
* Dru himself made me cringe. I couldn’t get a good read on him even from the start. There had to be things he was hiding, but it was just how much he was hiding that I couldn’t quite tell. For once, I was not very gung ho with this love interest. I honestly thought he could be guilty, and not just some cool forbidden romance where it’ll turn out the police had gotten it all wrong and Nikki was right to have seen the “good in him” from the beginning.
* The Hollises were just all absolutely messed up as crap. The family drama that unfolds is just…strange. I have no words to describe them all. They’re dysfunctional as hell.
* The mystery of Peyton’s demise wasn’t all that unpredictable. So even this selling point wasn’t thrilling enough. The prologue gave away too many clues. It was just a matter of how they did it and why she wasn’t killed immediately.

Okay now, there may be a LOT of things I didn’t really like, but I suppose there were redeeming factors that made me continue reading Shade Me.

* Nikki’s synesthesia made her a really cool protagonist to follow. This made her unique in a genre full of jaded characters due to awful past circumstances. It was intriguing to see what colours she associated with different emotions, like violet for lust and bright yellow for trustworthiness.
* The only secondary character I actually really enjoyed was the police officer assigned to Peyton’s case, Chris Martinez. He honestly cared about Nikki and the ridiculously dangerous choices she made. I had really hoped that she’d be more attracted to him instead of Dru. Here was an honest-to-goodness guy who was trustworthy (hello, she saw bright yellow emanating from him at first sight) and cared for her no matter how bristly she was towards him. HE would’ve made so much of a better choice. Here’s to hoping their story continues in book 2. I think she could get over her many issues with him, if only she learned to trust him.

So yes, Shade Me turned out to be as controversial and strange as I had originally worried about. Would I say that it’s that big of a turn-off from reading the book? I wouldn’t necessarily put it that way. From the comprehensive glimpse of what’s in the story above, I would let you decide whether you’d want to go forward with Nikki Kill’s messed-up problems that were only just beginning.

Overall Recommendation:
Shade Me fit squarely in the gray zone for me. It had a few redeeming qualities, especially with such an intriguing character as Nikki with her synesthesia and jaded attitude towards life. However, through many dumb decisions she makes, she falls into one messed-up family drama that truly was dysfunctional to the max. Plus, falling for the prime suspect in the assault case is never a good idea, even when he’s hot as crap. We get few resolution points at the end, with most things still hanging open for the rest of the series. Overall, this is a novel that was slightly troubling, and no matter how fast I kept reading, things just did not get any better for Nikki.


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