WHITE SMOKE by TIFFANY D. JACKSON
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Here we are again, dear readers. I’m reviewing yet another Tiffany D. Jackson book. This shouldn’t be surprising to you if you’ve kept up with my reviews throughout the years. I’ve reviewed all of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books so far, so it only feels right to be here today to review White Smoke. This book is Jackson’s fifth novel, and I was eager to get my hands on it as soon as I spotted it on Goodreads. Additionally, White Smoke is Jackson’s first foray into horror, and while it isn’t always successful, it’s still a worthy read. It’s Tiffany D. Jackson, after all. However, as a reviewer, I’d have to say that White Smoke is my least favorite of Jackson’s novels. If I had to make a list, it’d go something like this:
- Monday’s Not Coming
- Let Me Hear a Rhyme
- White Smoke
That being said, White Smoke follows Marigold and her little brother Sammy, as they move from California to a small Midwestern city called Cedarville. There’s also Mari and Sammy’s mother, her new husband Alec, and Alec’s daughter Piper. This newly blended family doesn’t always get along, and when Mari’s mother accepts a “residency” in Cedarville, things between Mari and the rest of her family get…weird.
Pitched as Get Out meets The Haunting of Hill House, White Smoke isn’t exactly a light and fluffy read. Mari is deeply troubled and actually pretty selfish, and that shows throughout the novel. Once addicted to Percocet and constantly needing weed to get by, Mari doesn’t have many friends and struggles with an intense phobia of bed bugs. If you also fear bed bugs, I’d skip reading this one, because Mari’s fear is visceral and a very present part of the novel. Sammy, Mari’s younger brother, is smart and loyal, though he has a deadly allergy to nuts that can make his life quite difficult. And then there’s Piper. Unlike Sammy and Mari, Piper white, but just like Mari, she’s deeply troubled. Piper fills the horror movie role of the weird and creepy child. She’s always up to something and you have to read the novel to find out what.
I don’t want to give too much away for fear of spoiling the book, but I will say that I enjoyed it. I liked how nuanced Mari was and I loved her relationship with Sammy. In addition to the horror aspects, White Smoke also tackles topics like the criminalization of weed, gentrification, and the struggles racially-blended families face. Horror is at its best when it comments on something in the real world, but in this instance, I think Jackson tried to take on too much without fleshing it all out. The ending of this book was extremely abrupt and I found myself flipping the last page more than a few times and asking myself: Wait, is this it?
The ending didn’t spoil the entire book for me, however, though I have a lot of lingering questions about certain characters and plotlines that I’m not sure I’ll get answers to. Overall, White Smoke is a great spooky read for the Halloween season, but it also makes the reader think, as all good horror does.
You can pick up our copy of White Smoke at the Argenta Library today.
Oh, and SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING FOR BED BUGS.
If they freak you out, don’t read this book!