CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 5. . . .October 24, 2008
Told from a first person point of view, K.L. Denmans newest novel, The Shade, is composed of three story lines. We are first introduced to the main character, Safira, as she describes her encounter with a ghost-like creature at her summer camp. Waking one night, she sees the image of a girl at the foot of her bed. Safira is certain the girl wants something of her, but she cant figure out what it is. Her best friend Trinity is dabbling in the occult and is determined to solve the mystery of the nighttime intruder. Safira reluctantly goes along with Trinitys investigation to a startling conclusion.
Meanwhile, Safira is also dealing with the impending wedding of her much older sister, Mya. The two girls dont get along due to the large age gap between them, and it seems that Mya is being a little demanding with the wedding arrangements. Despite the rift between them, Safira wants to be close to her sister and is concerned that the man Mya is marrying might not be as nice as Mya would have them believe. Through Safiras observations, the reader is brought to the conclusion that Mya is actually in an abusive relationship, and Safira manages to help her sister see the situation as it really is.
The third story line has to do with Safiras reluctance to swim, an activity she previously loved. Through the majority of the book, readers are only given hints that there is something very important going on with Safira. Her family and friends are always asking her about her swimming activities, and she either deflects their questions or tells them that she will no longer swim. Eventually it is revealed to the reader that Safira suffered a panic attack during a swimming competition and hasnt been in the water since. By the end of the book, as things right themselves in the rest of her world, Safira rediscovers her love of the water.
Any one of these story lines would have made a good novel, but all three crammed together in a hundred pages just makes for confusion. Nothing seems to go deep enough. Although probably the strongest of the three, we dont really get a very scary or intense ghost story. We dabble around the edges, but very little is explained in the end, even the theories arent very good. Safiras loss of nerve for swimming and her panic attack arent explained at all. We never find out why she has the attack in the first place; the reader doesnt get a good sense for what might have triggered it. Pressure from her dad and coach or the simple pressure of competition could have been incorporated, but isnt. As for the story of the abusive fiancé, the turnaround in the sister is too quick, too simple. People dont plan to marry someone one day and then turn around the next and believe what everyone is telling them when they say the guy is a jerk. It usually takes some denial on the part of the woman before shell dump him. There are plenty of good ideas in this novel, but there are too many to do justice to. There is also the dubious notion of introducing young children to the occult. Ouija boards and the likes can be dangerous things to dabble with, and I dont feel that these ideas should be treated so lightly. Childrens novels can be scary but should still be fun and safe. This book is not recommended.
Ruth Sands is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.