“Chameleon” is a paranormal/gothic YA suspense novel by author Zoe Kalo.
Puerto Rico, 1973: After being kicked out of her old school for performing a séance (and other “illicit” acts), Paloma finds herself abandoned by her mother and stepfather at an isolated convent. Completely alone, 17 year old Paloma decides to survive the seven months until the end of the school year, and to try her best to avoid everyone and everything. But when a popular girl named Rubia is assigned to be Paloma’s mentor and tour guide, Paloma is soon immersed in a small group of friends who are intrigued by the paranormal and encourage Paloma to attempt a séance at the convent. As soon as the séance is completed though, tragic accidents begin to plague the campus, and one of their own is dead. But is a ghostly force to blame? Or something far more sinister?
“Chameleon” is creative, and it has a “Madam” (by Phoebe Wynne) or “Prep”(Curtis Sittenfeld) kind of vibe, in that a group of young girls at a boarding school (of sorts) get together and trouble ensues. In “Chameleon” though, the trouble is of a paranormal sort, or at least that is what is implied.
The characters in this novel, in pure teenage fashion, are not what they seem. All of them are likable, in their own angst-y ways, but it is obvious that all of them have some deep, dark skeletons in their closet. Paloma was especially relatable, and her relationships with her peers played out in a very realistic way.
A few sections of the book play out like ‘dream sequences’, where things happen in rapid succession, and the sequence of events is portrayed in a very disjointed way, almost as if in a delusional state. It reads like a dream, and I expected it to be such, but then it is discovered that the events are actually happening, and I was left struggling to catch up. Some major details were skimmed over in these sections, and although I understand what Kalo was going for, I desperately wanted those spaces filled in in my mind.
I am not sure if this novel is part of a series or not, but the ending sure reads like another book may be forthcoming. Although most of the unanswered questions receive satisfying answers, there is a dangling carrot at the end that is not completely resolved.
“Chameleon” is well-told, with dark, gothic settings and disturbed young female characters who are somehow still likable. Kalo does a great job bringing a reader along for the ups and downs of the plot, and I was thoroughly invested in seeing how this novel would end.