Merriam-Webster defines synesthesia as: a concomitant sensation; especially : a subjective sensation or image of a sense (as of color) other than the one (as of sound) being stimulated
For Nikki Kill, her synesthesia manifests not only in the form of colors associated with numbers and letters, but with feelings as well. In other words, it makes her something of an emotional barometer for those around her. Not that she always understood that, though. And it certainly has made it hard to concentrate all her life, making her a not so great student. It’s while she’s supposed to be studying that she receives two strange phone calls. The first, from an unknown number, ends shortly after the caller says her name. The second is from the hospital where an unidentified teen with just Nikki’s number in her cell has been brought in after being found beaten unconscious.
The girl is Peyton Hollis, daughter of a famous Hollywood figure and his gorgeous wife. Not a friend of Nikki’s at all. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they attend the same school. Nikki can’t possibly imagine why Peyton would have called her or why hers would be the only number Peyton has in her phone. But she soon realizes that Peyton seemed to have expected something of this sort to happen. And she’d been leaving clues for some time. Clues only someone like Nikki would be able to recognize. Nikki has no idea where the clues will lead her, but she’s driven to find out why Peyton singled her out and determined to solve the mystery of her assault no matter what.
Synesthesia may be rare but it is quite real. And it’s fascinating how it manifests in different people. They can see sound, feel or hear color, or, as is Nikki’s case, see colors associated with numbers and letters. Hers is a double whammy in that she gets to also see colors associated with the emotions of those around her. So she’s quick to realize that Peyton’s tattoo, photography, and even paraphernalia left behind in the wake of her injury are meant to spark a reaction from a synesthete. And since Nikki was the last person Peyton mysteriously reached out to, it’s obvious the synesthete in question is Nikki herself.
The clues introduce Nikki to the dark underbelly of her town. It’s a town full of elites and Hollywood types, but one not immune to crime and the list of suspects who could have attacked Peyton grows with every discovery. Turns out the teen had quite a few enemies ranging from her band mates, friends, family, and beyond.
Shade Me unfolded in a way that kind of surprised me. I couldn’t have guessed at the beginning how the story would end. Nor did I realize it’s the first in a projected series. It’ll be interesting to see just how Nikki’s story continues to play out, but this first outing is a great start for sure.
1/16 Becky LeJeune
SHADE ME by Jennifer Brown. Katherine Tegen Books (January 19, 2016). ISBN 978-0062324436. 448p.