White Smoke

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063029095. POP.
Gr 8 Up–Teenage Marigold is an unreliable narrator, and she knows it. A bedbug infestation several years ago triggered an anxiety disorder that led to a dependency on marijuana and Percocet. So when she and her newly blended family move to Cedarville, she keeps her observations about their new house to herself; her desire not to arouse suspicion in her mother, who worries about Marigold relapsing, is more intense than her fear of strange noises and odd odors—at least, at first. But questions arise: Why are the other houses on the block gutted and burnt? Why does her stepsister, Piper, suddenly have an imaginary best friend? And can the family really trust the Sterling Foundation, which offered Marigold’s mother, a writer, a residency supposedly intended to help Cedarville flourish? Though Jackson masterfully weaves in references to everything from The Shining to Paranormal Activity, hers is a wholly original take on the haunted house genre. The novel will have readers racing for the conclusion, but the electrifying finale will linger, as will Jackson’s commentary on race, class, gentrification, and exploitation. Marigold, her mother, and her brother are Black, while Marigold’s stepfather and stepsister are white.
VERDICT Jackson is one of the most innovative YA suspense writers in recent years, and her latest is no exception. Spellbinding and thought-provoking.

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