So I went back and forth on the rating on this one a few times. I thought that parts of the book just didn’t hang together very well. And the ending was so abrupt. It just didn’t work for me. I think this was a great homage to “Wait Til Helen Comes” though. I am not seeing the whole “Hill House” narrative some people said. The house in the story is not insane. Also quit comparing every black horror novel to “Get Out”. Once again, this book is not remotely similar to that movie at all. I would also add that the main character, Marigold was kind of hard to like at times. Yes she’s a teen, but she’s selfish as the day is long. I was glad that other characters called her out for that. I was still rooting for her and her brother Sammy though.
“White Smoke” follows teen Mairgold and her blended family moving to a new home in Cedarville. Marigold’s mother was offered an artist in residence at a new home that she and the rest of the family have to stay in for 3 years. Marigold is feeling restless though. We know something bad happened that had her for a while in a mental health institution. But now she and her brother Sammy and stepsister Piper are being thrown together in a new home together. When things start going bump at the night and Piper keeps threatening Marigold with someone named Ms. Suga, Marigold wonders if her stepsister may be haunted by a ghost.
Marigold has a lot of real problems and I felt for her throughout this book. But honestly I can see why so many people wanted to shake her. She gets hyperfocused on finding weed to smoke and ignores the fact that one of her new friends has issues with it. She calls up her best friend back home to please send her some seeds so she can grow some weed. I kept shaking my head during those parts. We know that something happened to Marigold and she’s obsessed with things being clean and gets very shaky about bed bugs. I hope you like reading about them, cause facts about them are littered throughout the book. Marigold became more interesting to me though when she starts to realize something is not quite right with Piper. When she teams up with her younger brother was when the book got more interesting for me.
The other characters were interesting to me as well. I loved the character of Sammy. I really wanted to ask Mairgold’s mother was she crazy a few times. The way her new husband treated her kids and his kid was a big red flag. And when he started talking about thugs….um no girl. No. The character of Piper was honestly awful. Jackson tries to pivot later to make you feel some sympathy for her, but I would have left that child in a field somewhere and went about my day.
The writing was solid when Jackson has Marigold investigating the town, house, and residents. But I think not just coming out with what happened back home to her hurt the progress of the story. The bed bugs rhetoric also messed with the flow. A lot. I started skimming over any passages about them. I don’t have a phobia about them, but I just got tired of reading about them. They are gross little things. I will also say that the gentrification of the town subplot gets dropped after a while and then you have the weird owner of the home popping in and out. I still don’t get what was happening there.
The town of Cedarville was such an odd place. I wish we could have played with the mystery a bit more about the town, homes, and what certain people were really up to.
I love Gothic novels and this had some elements of that, but I would say that I wish that Jackson had pressed harder into that theme. I just don’t know what to say about this one since the ending was so abrupt and a ton of stuff is left unresolved. I wonder if she plans a sequel.