About the Book

Title: Shutter
Published: 2015
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Don’t Judge
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Lives Up to the Hype
Bonus Factors: Shades of Supernatural, One of the Guys, Unusual Tech
Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factors: Paranormal Gore, Open-Ended
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Oliver Twist

Cover Story: Don’t Judge

I am not a big horror fan. So when I first got this ARC, and saw this cover, I was like, “eh ….” And then I kept seeing the book—and the author—touted as the “next big thing in YA horror!” And I was like, “eh …” But I gave it a chance, anyway, and all of my judging and hesitation were for naught. Once again, I’ve learned the importance of not judging a book by it’s (very creepy) cover.

The Deal:

In the late 1800s, Abraham Van Helsing, Bram Stoker and a few other individuals with foresight and tenacity dedicated themselves and their families to the protection of the rest of humanity from evil. In 2015, Micheline Helsing, one of the last remaining members of Van Helsing’s line, is a cadet member of the Helsing Corps, an elite alternate law enforcement agency headquartered in San Francisco. Along with her teammates—Oliver Stoker, Jude Drake and Ryder McCoy—Micheline protects the citizens of the Bay Area from paranormal creatures like the undead (yes, zombies) and ghosts. They’re very good at their jobs, even if they’re not officially part of the Corps just yet.

When the team answers a call for assistance at a local hospital, they realize there’s no time to wait for the backup (i.e., full-fledged adult members of the Corps) to arrive. But what Micheline thought would be a semi-routine exorcism turns out to be anything but.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Because of her heritage, Micheline could have been a spoiled brat. She is, essentially, a princess, albeit of a paranormal hunting family rather than a royal one. She also could have been a brute, raised her entire life to fulfill the role of a Helsing, who are the brawn of the operation. (The Stokers are the brains.) And yet, she’s neither. She’s powerful and “special,” yes, but she never wants to be treated that way. She is good at her job and enjoys doing it, even when it means she’s putting her life and the lives of those around her on the line. She’s a total badass, but is also an excellent and loving friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Because she’s the last in the Helsing line, Micheline is expected (by her father) to submit to an arranged marriage for the benefit and continued strength of her family. Micheline scoffs at the idea—and rightly so!—and believes that a name doesn’t make a man. Unfortunately for her, the man she’s interested in is definitely not one of the names on her father’s list. But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be stolen glances and fleeting caresses when no one’s looking …

Talky Talk: Lives Up to the Hype

There’s a lot of hype surrounding Shutter. I’ve seen it highlighted on social media, in emails, on Goodreads. I know it’s the publishing industry’s job to promote a book, particularly when they think (hope?) it’s going to be a big hit. Sometimes, though, all that hype backfires when a book just isn’t that great.

Thankfully, Courtney Alameda has crafted a book that makes me feel that the hype was deserved. Her writing is clear and detailed. The plot is concise, but includes a little fluff here and there. Her characters feel realistic and so very cool. (But not too cool, if you know what I mean. They still have flaws.) Is the book perfect? No. It lacks a bit in world building. If you don’t know a lot about San Francisco, it can be hard to follow where the characters go. And if you’re unfamiliar with Dracula, the various names of the Helsing founding families don’t have the impact they’re supposed to have. Additionally, I found some of the descriptions of creatures and items a tad confusing; I couldn’t quite picture them in my mind.

But this is a debut novel, y’all, which makes me believe that Alameda has a very promising future—meaning lots of good reading to come!

Bonus Factor: Shades of Supernatural

Sam and Dean Winchester surrounded by paranormal creatures in a cemetery.

To give credit where it’s due, a Goodreads friend mentioned that Shutter is perfect for fans of Supernatural. After finishing it, I couldn’t agree more. They’re different enough that it doesn’t feel like a fanfiction, but if you’re a fan of what the Winchesters do—hunting things, saving people, narrowly escaping* horrible deaths—then you’ll enjoy what Micheline and her team do.

*Only sometimes, in the Winchesters’ case. Whomp, whomp.

Bonus Factor: One of the Guys

Charlize Theron as Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road holds a gun a stares fiercely just off camera

As someone who, growing up, always felt more comfortable hanging out with “the guys,” Micheline’s place among her three male teammates felt familiar to me. She’s never treated as a lesser being, nor is her being a female ever an issue. She’s the team’s leader, and the guys follow her without question. Yes, one of them might be a love interest, but—thank god—only one of them is.

Also, Micheline is the only main female character, but there are others mentioned in passing in the book who sound equally as badass, so it’s apparent that the Helsing Corps is pretty gender-blind when it comes to recruiting.

Bonus Factor: Unusual Tech

A collage of various technological devices (laptops, phones, headphones, email, wifi, etc.)

The typical exorcism involves priests, holy water, crosses, Latin chants, etc. In Shutter, however, the tech is different. Micheline uses an analog camera in her battle against ghosts, which is an interesting and new idea in the world of the paranormal. (At least, I’ve never read about/heard of it before.)

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Paranormal Gore

Rick from Walking Dead stands in front of double doors that say "Don't Open, Dead Inside".

Shutter is being marketed as a horror book, but it’s not all that scary. Yes, there are paranormal creatures. Yes, things get tense. But it never made me unwilling to go into a dark room after reading. It’s more gory than scary—some of Alameda’s descriptions of the creatures Micheline and team fight are graphic and more than a little disturbing. I’m all for that, in this case, but do be aware that the things that go bump in the night in Shutter didn’t attend Monsters University.

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Open-Ended

A bunch of white question marks on top of each other

I can’t find any evidence on le Internet that Shutter is the first in a series. Nor does the book leave readers with a cliffhanger. It’s very open-ended, however, which makes me believe that there could be more to this universe than one book.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

You guys. Micheline’s dad—Leonard Helsing, leader of the Helsing Corps, direct descendant of Abraham Van Helsing—is THE WORST (for most of the book). Not only does he want to arrange a marriage for Micheline, he’s degrading, belittling and abusive. He gets a little better in the end, and there are reasons for him being a giant bag of dicks, which I won’t spoil for you here, but none of it excuses his behavior completely.

Relationship Status: Oliver Twist

Oh, Book. I’ll admit, when we first met, I judged you by your outward appearance and rumors I’d heard. But I should have known better—first impressions might be lasting, but they’re not always accurate. Our date was an exciting, wild ride, and I am left wanting so much more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Feiwel and Friends. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Shutter is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.