Fourteen-year-old Iris lives in the tiny town of Ondine, Louisiana where nothing exciting ever happens. The only thing that has ever really happened in the town’s whole history was the disappearance of Elijah Landry, which happened before Iris was born. No one knows what happened to him. He was released from a hospital stay and disappeared from his bedroom with only a drop of blood on his pillow as a clue. Iris and her best friend Collette often wonder about Elijah, they also like to pretend that they can cast spells and call up the ghosts of the dead, or they used to before Collette started getting interested in boys and fashion. Iris isn’t interested in boys and fashion, and she desperately wants things to stay the same between her and Collette. This summer, things are changing, and not just between Iris and Collette. One day, when the girls are calling to the dead in the cemetery, Iris sees her first real ghost, a boy who speaks to her and says “Where y’at, Iris?” Iris’ ghost turns out to be Elijah Landry and he won’t leave her alone no matter what. Iris, Collette, and Ben, the boy Collette has her eye on but who keeps making eyes at Iris, are determined to find out the truth about what really happened to Elijah Landry.
Reaction: Shadowed Summer is a short book but it is by no means a quick read. It is a slow, subtle book, matching the pace of life in small town Ondine. Iris seems to be a bit immature for an average fourteen-year-old but it could just be because of the town she lives in. Ondine and its occupants don’t have much contact with the outside world. Its quaintness reminded me of another era, a time where small corner groceries and diners with a soda fountains were the norm, and I started to wonder if the book was supposed to have taken place back in the 50s or 60s, until the girls started looking for clues on the internet. A majority of the book was about Iris’ changing relationship with Collette and what it means to transition from childhood to teenage. Iris wasn’t ready to let go of her childhood but her friends and her own changing needs weren’t allowing her to cling to the past anymore. Elijah Landry’s ghost ended up almost as a secondary plot line. I enjoy a good ghost story, especially one with a good mystery, which this seemed to have, so I could have used a bit more sleuthing and a bit more Elijah Landry sitings. I also thought the end was a bit abrupt; to me it seemed like suddenly Iris had it all figured out and then, boom, everyone who’d kept tight lips for almost 20 years finally decided to open up. I’m probably being a bit hard on this book. Overall, it was well written and enjoyable “coming-of-age” (how cliche) story. Just don’t dive in expecting the focus to be on the mystery and the ghost.