“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices…to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill…and suspicion can destroy…and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own—for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”– Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone. Season 1, Episode 22: “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” 1960.)
Acclaimed writer Tiffany D. Jackson ventures into the horror genre with her YA novel, White Smoke from HarperCollins. White Smoke combines elements of classic ghost horror movies, The Twilight Zone, and psychological horror. Welcome to Maple Street, where the monsters of the past and present are due to incite terror in White Smoke.
Marigold Anderson and her recently blended family are uprooted from their home in Carmel, California to Maplewood, a small section of Cedarwood in a town resembling Detroit, Michigan. A drug addiction cost Mari her reputation as a track star, her enrollment in high school, and almost cost her life. After her mother’s recent marriage to a white man and his tyrannical daughter, coupled with PTSD, anxiety, a rehab stint, and suffering without a weed supply anymore, moving into a formidable house in the middle of the country only worsens Mari’s mental health.
The cost of Mari’s rehab from drugs financially crippled their family. When Mari’s mother is offered a free home from a new artist’s residency program, she takes the deal that seems almost too good to be true. Their new home may seem like a dream, but the abandoned houses surrounding the Maple Street residence gives Mari and her family a sense of unease. When items start going missing and Mari begins seeing ghosts in the house, her terror only amplifies.
A fresh start isn’t going to fix Mari’s problems–especially if she’s living in a haunted house.
“‘We stopped to ask for directions, but no one’s ever heard of this Maple Street.’ ‘Really? Who’d you ask?’ He chuckles and points behind us. ‘Your neighbors.'”– White Smoke
White Smoke is the type of book that drifts through your mind like smoke, clouding your thoughts and winding its way around your consciousness. Jackson’s writing is intoxicating. You find yourself inhaling her words, blowing puffs of air outward when chilling scenes frighten you to the core. White Smoke pulses with atmosphere, a luring vision of horror reeling you in as the monsters grow nearer.
It’s hard to believe White Smoke is Jackson’s first “horror” novel because she nails every story beat and knows how to mount tension while creating nuance in the branching storylines. However, if you’ve read any of Jackson’s other novels, you already know she is a master of suspense. Jackson takes the monstrous themes of abusive men, systemic racism, oppression, addiction, gentrification, and unfounded allegations from her other works (Grown, Allegedly, Monday’s Not Coming) and expertly entwines these topics into White Smoke. Jaw-dropping plot twists and immersive mysteries are not surprising when it comes to Tiffany D. Jackson’s writing. Like her other novels, White Smoke breaks her characters apart — and breaks readers’ hearts.
If you want to read a chilling psychological horror novel this October, start with White Smoke. The novel beats like a fluttering heart, with terror creeping around the edges. White Smoke is an essential commentary on men and monsters, the power of wealth, the dangers of addiction, and the internal prejudices that can tear a town apart. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, the parallels to “The Monsters on Maple Street” episode become evident in startling ways.
Tiffany D. Jackson, please don’t stop tearing your readers’ minds apart with incredible novels like White Smoke.