SHE SMELLS THE DEAD/ SPIRIT STORM
Spirit Guide Novels 1 & 2
Paranormal Young Adult
Received from author for review
Yuki has recently discovered she has a surprising gift, one that she's not sure she would have chosen for herself: she can smell the dead. She can identify a scent unique to the person who died, something she attempts to use in order to find and help the lingering spirit with their restlessness by taking care of whatever business is keeping them from peace.
As though that weren't unusual enough, she also learns her boyfriend and longtime best friend Calvin is alpha of the local werewolf pack and is just now learning to control his change with the help of mentor Simon.
This series follows Yuki, Calvin, Simon and Yuki's best friend Emma as they all find themselves in one supernatural battle after another, juggling spirits, werewolf life, and the difficulties of making a young romance work.
While the title of the first book calls a rather unsavory picture to mind, our protagonist's penchant for receiving smell impressions that can aid her in the identification of a wayward spirit in need of mortal assistance is actually a rather refreshing concept. Yuki doesn't spend her life bombarded by whiffs of death and decay as one might think, but rather picks up on particular scents such as vinegar or burnt brownies that act as her only sensory clues to who these spirits were when living given she can neither see nor hear them. This basic premise makes for quick and interesting reads, though unfortunately the werewolf angle involving best-friend-turned-boyfriend Cal is far more prominent in both books. Yuki's sensitivity to spirits is linked to Cal's werewolf nature to tie the two disparate worlds together nicely, but we can't help but wish a fascinating gift such as hers might play a bigger role.
Yuki is a spunky goth girl who is both funny and charming, and she embraces the ever-expanding world of the paranormal she's quickly introduced to with little denial. In She Smells the Dead especially there are a few phrases such as "son of a dung beetle" she repeats with somewhat tedious regularity however, continually reminding us of her young age which, for us older readers of young adult fiction, makes her a bit harder to connect to. Her switch from friendship with Cal to something more happens extraordinarily quickly and easily in book one, bypassing some of the delicious tension a transition like that would inevitably cause and leaving us scratching our heads a bit as to why this development didn't happen sooner or why they weren't a couple from the very onset of the story. Their relationship is more interesting and believable in Spirit Storm due to their already established connection, and their interactions are therefore more successful overall.
Books one and two in the Spirit Guide series are well suited for younger readers, touching on a variety of supernatural subjects and detailing the lives of some characters we certainly wouldn't mind learning more about. Conflicts in both books do get resolved with seemingly little effort and fanfare after the buildup though, and given the short page count of both installments, those conflicts could have been expanded upon to add just a few more intricacies to the tale to draw us deeper into this world. That being said, Ms. Stevens shows a lot of promise in her creativity and characterization, her supporting cast of Emma and Simon intriguing us nearly as much as Cal and Yuki do, while Yuki's olfactory perceptions have unlimited plot possibilities moving forward.
Overall series rating: 3/5