I'm a little hesitant to read books "set in the South" since many of the attempts I've read don't make it sound like the (American) South. I've lived in NC for 8 years and the majority of the time it feels like, well, a normal city anywhere in the US. Sure it doesn't feel northern per say, but aside from the fact that some people consider Grits legitimate breakfast food* and we have more than one style to cook barbecue** everything feels rather average. So when people go one about the rednecks, the blatant various -isms, and the desire to just get out, yes that is in some parts of the South but every state has some parts like that. I've lived in a small city, a small town, and the Southern part of Maryland for most of my life so I know what doesn't feel quite right.
And this book gets it right! It's a small town but that's it, it's a small town with it's quirks yet it still feels Southern, and frankly I don't know why I haven't come across more ghost stories in the South since the ideas go hand in hand.
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
Summary: While Iris has vowed to leave her small town behind once she turns 16 she's currently 14 and enjoying summer the best she can with her best friend Collette, both of which are caught between the age when they believed magic and spells were real and the current day where they go through the old motions for the heck of it. But a ghostly whisper in Iris's ear leads her to question if ghosts aren't real after all, specifically the ghost of a boy who went missing years ago and seems to want something from her and enjoy tormenting her all the while.
The Good: Like I said above, the setting works very well. I can't recall any specific examples but the setting felt like an actual Southern town and an actual small town as well, a lot of locations appeared many times and the characters were certainly limited in where they could go. The relationships also felt pretty close to what actual 14 year olds would be going through and I liked how the romance ended, think the author had a bit of guts to pull of that ending. As for the ghost related parts, which really make up the bulk of the story, I thought they worked really well and really used the Southern setting (small town where everyone knows what's going on? Small town where everyone has known you since you were a kid? Small town where people are all then convinced you're crazy? Triple check!) to emphasize just how creepy everything was. And again that was also due in part to Iris, she doesn't take much of a romantic view at all to being stalked by a ghost and comes off as a combination of scared, brash, annoyed, and then terrified because no one believes what's going on.
The Bad: There were a few characters (like Iris' uncle) who were introduced and had very small roles that I would've like to see again later in the book. The plot certainly doesn't call for it but it feels strange to meet a lot of people who don't have any real impact on the story (hmm, maybe that's called real life). All in all I didn't have any major problems in the book yet it wasn't the most amazing thing I had ever read. It just didn't have that spark that made it go from a good book to a must buy.
Can't think of any books like this one I'm afraid, probably because I only got into horror type stories in this past year (guess that's the difference between living in a house with three heavy sleepers and living in a several hundred person dorm). But if anyone has a Southern ghost story suggestion please tell me!
**Which just makes sense, there should be more than one way to cook everything.