Please Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinions in my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
Review:Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano, is a unique book in many ways: The premise (a boy is able to leave his body and have his spirit wander around when he sleeps), coupled with the setting (a juvenile prison) make for a strangely haunting read. To be honest, I was not sold, at first, on the idea that John "Smoke" could float away from his body due to a near death experience. On the surface, it appeared to be a silly device used to enable the character to do more than sit in prison. On a deeper level, however, it seemed more like a metaphor for how people cope with extreme situations.
As I read the book, I began to understand that many of the characters find ways to "check out" of their bodies in difficult situations. The waitress, Pink, plasters on her "tip smile" and keeps busy to avoid the unpleasant reality of being an underage girl working in a strip club. Martin, the prisoner pushing the library cart, chooses to show no emotion at all as he moves between inmates.
The prison itself is a place who's currency is information and favors. Since John can walk out at will, he is in a unique position of being able to get information on an inmate's crime associates, and loved ones. In return, he gets protection from other inmates. But each time he leaves his body, the threads that keep him anchored to the earth fray. What will happen when all the strings that hold him to this life snap? Where will he go?
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery of who actually killed John's teacher evolves into a tangled web that could possibly include people he thought he could trust, and motives he cannot fathom. Will he be killed next to keep him silent? I thought the book did a great job of showing prison culture in a juvenile detention center. I enjoyed that I learned about a place totally at odds with my own life experiences. Exposing myself to situations I could never know about is one of the great joys of reading. This books does it in a fun, thrilling manner.
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Recommendation: A supernatural fantasy that will keep you on the edge of your seat.