Info: Feiwel and Friends, copyright 2015, 384 pages
Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat - a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed the camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.
When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a solution. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity made powerful than anything she's faced before...or die trying.
Do you remember the episode of Friends when Joey keeps his copy of "The Shining" in the freezer when it gets too scary? If I had had a print copy of Shutter and not the eBook, this would have made my nights a little less terrifying.
Here's what Courtney Alameda did right (and people, it was almost everything).
- Character Development. Alameda's ability to create well-rounded, thoughtful characters reminded me a bit of Maggie Stiefvater (which is a high, high praise :) I really like strong female characters who can hang with the boys, and the boys respect them enough to go off and kick some butt. Micheline wears the Helsing name proudly, despite the baggage that it also carries. She loves what she does, and she's really good at it despite the very distinct possibility that she is going to die.
- People Die. That sounds morbid, but stay with me here. I'm not a fan of horror movies. I watch them with my eyes covered peering between my fingers ready to scream at the slightest movement on the screen. But by golly I hate clean, tidy endings. If it's supposed to be horror than something terrible has to happen. Alameda isn't afraid of a body count. And it's messy, super messy, without being overly gory.
- Monsters that are legit. By monsters I mean the undead and the wicked scary demon people who live in mirrors. They could be lurking around every corner. They are relentless and overwhelming. And they scared me enough that I had to leave the light on a bit.
- And finally, she absolutely rocks at suspense. She gives you just enough in a scene to keep you leaning in and then BOOM she throws something at the character (sometimes literally) that catches your breath. So cool.
And here's my complaint.
Our intrepid heroes get themselves into some trouble, and there's a great likelihood that they aren't going to survive. Time is ticking. But of course there is time for some serious teen angst and a lot of "I love you, but I can't love you, but I love you..." and on and on. I like Micheline. And I like Ryder. And yes, I like romance and I want them to get together, but come on you guys! Evil is invading the city and trying to kill you around every turn. It's maybe not the time for that. Some of Micheline's inner dialogue about Ryder got a little old. Make your point but keep the story moving.
That being said. Read. This. Book. Courtney Alameda is a talent who understands the importance of mood, tone, and character development before plot. And the plot is pretty awesome as well.
And it's the perfect month for a scary story. Do yourself a favor and head to your local library and pick up a copy of Shutter.