Shades of Simon Gray

Shades of Simon Gray

Dela­corte, 2001

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Please check your local library or used book­seller for a print copy of this book.


For more than two hun­dred years the town of Belle­haven has har­bored a sin­is­ter secret. Then one night Simon Gray crash­es his Hon­da into an ancient oak — a tree the kids at school call the Hang­ing Tree — and strange events begin to plague the town. Sud­den­ly the lives of Simon and his friends, who have been hid­ing their own dark secret, begin to unravel.

Trapped in a coma, Simon is unaware that the police are inves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble com­put­er hack­ing inci­dent at the high school. No one believes that Simon Gray could be involved. He is every par­en­t’s ide­al teenag­er — smart, reli­able, hard­work­ing, trust­wor­thy. Or is he? Mean­while, in his comatose state, Simon seems to be mak­ing a few dis­cov­er­ies of his own through con­ver­sa­tions with a man who was hanged for mur­der two hun­dred years ago, from the same tree Simon smashed into. Could there be a connection?

The choic­es we make can have far-reach­ing con­se­quences for us and for the peo­ple we love. And some­times we can’t tell inno­cence from guilt, acci­dent from design. Set in a small town gone slight­ly hay­wire, Joyce McDon­ald’s eerie, sus­pense­ful tale of hid­den crimes, secret pas­sions, and self­ish lies — both in the dis­tant past and the present — explores with sub­tle­ty and uncan­ny insight that most intri­cate of land­scapes: the human soul.


  • Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee
  • An Amer­i­can Library Association/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults,
  • A New York Pub­lic Library Book for the Teen Age
  • VOYA Best Sci­ence Fic­tion, Fan­ta­sy, and Hor­ror Book
  • South Car­oli­na Young Adult Book Award Nominee
  • Okla­homa Sequoy­ah Chil­dren’s Book Award Nominee
  • TAYSHAS High School Read­ing List
  • Fea­tured in Sev­en­teen


Shades of Simon Gray is a bril­liant com­bi­na­tion of mys­tery, fan­ta­sy, his­to­ry and grit­ty real­ism. This is a book that does­n’t let up for a minute, pulling the read­er in with a fast-paced blend of past and present.” (

“Writ­ten with con­sid­er­able nar­ra­tive skill, the super­nat­ur­al ele­ments are so clev­er­ly inte­grat­ed that the end­ing is both sat­is­fy­ing and con­vinc­ing. A page-turn­ing plot, good char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, and very con­vinc­ing set­ting will have this sus­pense­ful thriller dri­ving up library cir­cu­la­tion.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“This cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ry is about decep­tion and guilt — but most of all, it’s about the lengths we’ll go to in order to belong.” (Sev­en­teen)

“an eerie and com­pelling tale … A rous­ing book­talk should have this sto­ry fly­ing off shelves into the hands of teens who enjoy sus­pense with a twist of the super­nat­ur­al.” (VOYA)

“McDon­ald’s atmos­pher­ic and effec­tive­ly paced open­ing will suck read­ers right into this mys­te­ri­ous half-fan­ta­sy world of the repressed, old wrongs right­ed, and com­put­er crime …” (The Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books)

“Simon … is a thought­ful, inter­est­ing char­ac­ter. McDon­ald … paints an eerie, elec­tric atmos­phere of men­ace that lingers past the final page.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

” … McDon­ald ably main­tains sus­pense … The author blends ele­ments of ghost sto­ry, thriller and (unre­quit­ed) romance in this spooky tale … ” (The Horn Book)

” … dark secrets past and present are released into the air like a flock of crows.” (Wash­ing­ton Post)

“Joyce McDon­ald weaves truth and lies, guilt and inno­cence into a chill­ing­ly effec­tive web.” (

“Joyce McDon­ald has done a super job; she’s up-to-date with­out being trendy, and her prose is sim­ple and straight­for­ward, but not dumb­ed-down. Teens will find this book rel­e­vant and true. McDon­ald cov­ers a lot of bases and has some oppor­tu­ni­ties to be preachy, yet refus­es to do so, let­ting read­ers make their own judg­ments … McDon­ald … show[s] us … that we all are the sum of the choic­es we make. An admirable trait in a book for young peo­ple.” (Book­Page)

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