Delacorte Press, 2009
I'm a sucker for anything that has to do with Louisiana. If a book is set in Louisiana, I will read it. If a television show takes place in Louisiana, I will watch it. And I will probably go on and on complaining about the inaccuracies laced throughout the story. I'm a South Louisiana girl, and I always will be…and I love New Orleans and my Cajun culture so much that I will squawk until your ears bleed if something is just not right. Seriously, can we quit with the bad Cajun accents??
I didn't have that urge, though, with this story. Set in fictional Ondine, Louisiana, in Ascension Parish, 'Shadowed Summer' follows Iris and two of her friends as they try to solve a decades-old disappearance of a teenage boy in their sleepy little town.
Often when Louisiana is the backdrop for a story, it's all bells and whistles, (horrible) Cajun accents, Swamp Thing, and Mardi Gras…but Saundra Mitchell impressively writes a story set in Louisiana without beating us over the head with stereotypes. The story is about a ghost and graveyards, and a small town nestled somewhere between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is a perfect backdrop. There's a brief mention of Katrina, a couple of nods towards NOLA and BR, but other than that, Mitchell lets Louisiana be just what it's supposed to be– the setting. Nothing more, nothing less.
Iris and her best friend Collette spend their summers trying to conjure up ghosts in the graveyard (not unlike many bored pre-teens who live near cemetaries, am I right???) But when Iris is greeted with a whispered "Where y'at?" from an unknown voice, it sets them on a ghost chase and invites the restless soul of Elijah Landry into Iris' home.
The story is fast-paced; the mystery of Elijah's disappearance pushes the story along, with glimpses into Iris' struggles with her friends, reminding us that our narrator is, indeed, a teenager with teenage issues. It was certainly a quality read; I started it on my break this morning at work and finished about 7PM tonight — I am happy to say that it held my interest (tricky to do as of late), and the revelation of what happened to Elijah did not disappoint.
I am very satisfied that this novel successfully and genuinely used LA as a backdrop. HOORAY FOR SAUNDRA MITCHELL!! And, the inclusion of "Where y'at?" as Elijah's catch phrase just warmed my heart…Mitchell certainly knows her true Louisiana stuff.