Title: Other Words for Smoke
Author: Sarah Maria Griffin
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Years ago, the house at the end of the lane burned down. The townspeople never learned what happened, but Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth of what happened that summer—and they’ll never say a word. When they were told they’d be spending their summer with their great aunt, Mae and Rossa were anything but thrilled. But nothing at Rita’s is as it appears. Bevan is enthralled by a dangerous power lurking behind the walls of Rita’s home. The power—known as Sweet James—is hungry, and what he wants most is a taste of the twins. And Bevan wants the magic and escape that Sweet James is offering her. But Sweet James is never satisfied, no matter what Bevan brings him. Mae would give Bevan almost anything—she is in the grip of first love, both dying for Bevan’s attention and worried she’ll get it. But Rossa is learning some of the terrible secrets the house is hiding, secrets that paralyze him with fear. As the summer draws to a close, Bevan tries to free Sweet James from his prison within the walls, but is thwarted by Rita and her cat (who is more than a cat), Bobby Dear.
It’s over for Mae and Rossa, isn’t it? They return home. They don’t talk about the strangeness of that summer. But it never completely abandons them. And things at home only get worse.
And so three years later, Rossa and Mae are sent once again to Rita’s home, as their parents’ marriage finally seems to crumble. At first it seems that the strangeness has dissipated. But Sweet James never left. He has been lurking within the walls, waiting the perfect time to return. He’s been waiting much longer than any of them know—any of them except Rita, who has been keeping secrets of her own. Secrets that bring the house down in flames around them and bring them all to the brink of the things they most want—and what they most fear.
Sarah Maria Griffin is a rare talent with a unique and atmospheric writing style. Fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints and Libba Bray’s The Diviners will devour this dark and unusual novel.
This was an exciting story. It’s unique because it’s a mix of suspense, fantasy, and a little bit of horror.
This story was unique in the narratives. The focus switched between characters. Most of it was written in third person, but when it switched to Bevan’s perspective it became second person. I’ve only read a short story written from the second person perspective, so this was new to me. In second person, the narrator speaks to “you.” Bevan was in an unusual position in the story, so it makes sense that she had an unusual narrative.
The ending of the story was quite surprising. I loved the mix of horror and fantasy. There were a lot of magical elements, such as a cat who could talk and an owl who lived in the walls of the house. I think it has elements of horror too, in the way that the house’s layout would change, which disturbed the characters. I really liked this mix of genres.
I loved this story! It’s a great, unique book.
What to read next:
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Have you read Other Words for Smoke? What did you think of it?