Rating (out of 5): 5 stars
I couldn’t put down Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade for more than a few moments at a time. After reading the majority of the 450-page book in a single sitting, I looked at my husband and just mumbled, “Wow.” Following a curious look from my better half, all I could say was Nightshade is by far the best YA novel I’ve read this year. (Yes, better than Spirit Bound. Yes, better than The Iron Daughter.) It is just a phenomenal read.
Calla is the alpha of the young wolves in her pack, the Nightshade pack. They, and other Guardians (both wolf and human, able to shift at will), protect a sacred site in Colorado. But the time is coming for a new pack to be formed. Since her birth Calla has known she will be the mate of the Bane pack alpha Ren. That is tradition and her duty. She had accepted it. But much more is expected of Calla than Ren in terms of their pre-union behavior. She must remain pure — not even kissing Ren until she’s ‘his.’ He can do whatever with whomever without any consequences, and he does.
It all becomes more complicated when a human boy, Shay, enters Calla’s world. She’s drawn to him, but interacting with him is forbidden as are the strong, unfamiliar emotions Calla feels for Shay. He pushes her to find answers about who she is and why she follows orders, particular the one about being Ren’s mate.
The love triangle in Nighshade is gripping and, at times, overwhelming. The fact is Ren isn’t a bad guy. He wants Calla to want him because he cares for her. She has feelings for him, but also doesn’t believe she has a choice not to be with him. Shay offers her freedom and romantic love. He wants her to direct her own destiny. (It’s hard not to love Shay.)
Nightshade isn’t just another werewolf book. It isn’t just another teen love story. Nightshade is about women controlling their own lives, about being free to love, about investigating truth for one’s self… and it is utterly sexy without any sex.
Also, for those who want strong prose that keeps your mind working while devouring page-turners, Cremer’s word choices are beautiful. The writing is lovely alongside the powerful story.