I picked Shutter for review primarily because of my recent experience with Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano. I was deeply impressed by that story of a young juvenile offender and the girl who helped him solve the mystery behind his incarceration and I was hoping this story would be more of the same. But while Shutter was also about a young incarcerated male and his female champion, the idealized characters and adolescent outlook of the book deprived it of the crossover appeal that was a hallmark of Holding Smoke.
Day Connor is trying to get some candy from a top shelf at a convenience store when she literally falls into Julian Roman’s arms. Intrigued by him, she ditches her friends and trails him, taking photographs of him surreptitiously. In her mind, none of this is stalking – she’s just really into taking pictures. When she later learns that he is an escapee from a juvenile detention center and is wanted for the murder of his father, she realizes that her decision to follow a strange boy alone might not have been her wisest choice. She vows to call the police if they should ever meet again but when she encounters Julian living in her very own shed, she sees a sick, exhausted, hungry young man in need of help. She provides just that. This is a natural reflex for Day, whose mom is the founder of Project W, “an international nonprofit organization that fights for the rights of women” and whose dad is president of Mentors for Equality. After just a few short conversations with the shy but hot Julian, Day has an epiphany: she needs to solve Julian’s case and clear his name.
This is a story about a boy, a girl, a shed and lots of conversations. Day deals with typical high school stuff – coffee runs, crushes, extra-curriculars, homework, parental issues– while simultaneously attempting to figure out just what happened on the Saturday Julian supposedly offed his dad. The plot is basically cozy-mystery-lite; an amateur sleuth armed only with her dogged determination solves the case that has been baffling the cops for months.
While many YA novels transcend the genre and speak equally to adults and teens alike, Shutter is very much a novel for teens. This made reading it a bit difficult since I haven’t been a teen for several decades and didn’t relate well to the characters. I found myself constantly wanting to harangue Day about her decisions. I was also frustrated with her parents who seemed too busy with their own problems to care for their kid, and irritated by Julian, who seemed determined to drag Day into his messes with him. A very large part of me wanted to give whatever teens might read this a lecture on how this story should never, ever be taken as a guide for appropriate behavior. You see an escapee from prison, you call the cops.
Beyond the desire to pontificate, my main emotion was one of cultural confusion. I had a feeling that Day and her friends were supposed to be hip but I couldn’t really judge if their Bernie Bro style dialogue is indeed what’s in or not. I do know that I found the joke surrounding Max’s name lame as opposed to funny and that I found the use of the word Day as a name a bit irritating but beyond that, I can’t definitively say if the characters in the book were as cool as they hoped they were.
A mildly intriguing mystery and good prose make Shutter an easy to read book but the characterization and plot make it one that will likely appeal only to its target audience. If you have a teen mystery fan on your Christmas list, this might make a nice gift. For adults on that list I would look elsewhere.