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White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson — A Librarian’s Perspective

I’m on a roll with fiction audiobooks lately! Last week, I loved the audiobook of Parachutes by Kelly Yang, and this week I enjoyed the audiobook version of White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson. I finished it in about 4 days, which is great for me with audiobook fiction. The fast-paced story is deliciously creepy, especially in the hands of audiobook narrator Marcella Cox. I did feel a bit let down by the ending, which left some holes in the story’s earlier events.

AUTHOR: Tiffany D. Jackson
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 14, 2021
PAGES: 384
GENRE: thriller, supernatural, horror
SETTING: Cedarville, a fictional town; modern day


Marigold’s newly-blended family moves from California to Cedarville, a tiny, dying midwestern town near the Canadian border. Their new house is large and recently-renovated, but it’s also creepy. Doors open and close by themselves, strange noises and smells permeate the hallways, and sometimes, Mari sees shadowy people standing in her room. Could their new house be haunted?


I was really into this story until the last 50 or so pages. I loved Mari’s voice, and the whole story was super-creepy. Unfortunately, the ending felt a bit “Scooby-Doo” and didn’t go well with the rest of the story.


Mari’s addiction to marijuana is believable. She is constantly looking for her next high, which is difficult to find in her new small town. She seems to know a lot about it, including how to grow it and methods for finding fellow smokers at school. It adds to the story because Mari’s anxiety is palpable. Her extreme fear of bedbugs is constant, and she cannot get the one thing that calms her down. It makes sense that living in a haunted house would dial up her anxiety to a supreme level.

I liked that this was about a newly-blended family. As if ghosts and anxiety aren’t enough, Mari has to deal with a new white stepfather and his daughter Piper, who is around age 10. Mari, her mother, and her younger brother Sammy are Black. Increasing the tension, Piper has her own psychological issues going on, and her father Alec defends her odd behavior fiercely.

I liked that there was a hint of romance, but it wasn’t the focus of the story. Mari isn’t interested in romance. She has enough to deal with in her life, and she knows a romance with Yusef will only complicate her life further. Yusef becomes a good friend, but he clearly likes Mari; readers will surmise that they get together eventually.

My absolutely favorite part was the creepiness! This kept me turning audiobook pages long after my morning walk ended. The audiobook reader, Marcella Cox, is excellent, especially when she does the ghost’s voice. “This is my house…” *shudders*


The ending was an anti-climactic let-down. True to form, author Tiffany D. Jackson adds some twists, but for once, I didn’t really like them. They didn’t go with the rest of the story. Once the twist was revealed, I noticed things that had happened earlier in the story that just didn’t make sense anymore. I won’t say more for fear of giving too much away.


Mari, her mother, her brother Sammy, and friend/love interest Yusef are all Black. Another friend, Erika, is queer, and I think she was also Black (can’t remember that being stated specifically). Piper and her father Alec (Mari’s stepsister and step father) are white.


Ooh! The purple smokiness against a black background. It’s a nice choice for White Smoke and goes with the events of the story.


Themes: haunted houses, blended families, stepfamilies, biracial families, small towns, marijuana addiction, anxiety, bedbugs, moving to a new town, making new friends, attending a new school, siblings, town secrets, false accusations, gardening

Would adults like White Smoke? Yes, I think so. I liked it, and it got positive reviews in my online book club (all adult librarians and teachers).

Would I buy White Smoke for my high school library? Yes, definitely!

Would I buy White Smoke for my middle school library? Maybe. The marijuana fixation is probably a bit much for younger middle schoolers, but the ghost story would be easy to booktalk with 8th graders.


Language: Medium–I remember at least a few sh**s anyway. It’s always hard to focus on language when I read the audiobook. The profanity wasn’t gratuitous.

Sexuality: Low–a few mentions of sex and dating, but nothing physical

Violence: Medium–the constant threat of violence from ghosts, townspeople, and an evil corporation.

Drugs/Alcohol: High–For the first half of White Smoke, Mari is obsessed with scoring some marijuana. She plants her own cannabis garden and smokes with a new friend at school. Mari’s previous abuse of percocet is also mentioned.

Other: false accusations of sexual abuse (nothing detailed)



Have you read White Smoke? What did you think? Is it popular in your library?

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