Critique | Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano (Spoiler-Free)

4 Teacups

**I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**


22639535John “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. He meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.  The closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. 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.

I saw this book on Netgalley and fell in love with the premise. I’ve always loved shows and books that have to do with astral projection. I think it’s fascinating. Elle Cosimano’s father was a warden, so her childhood was spent inside a prison when she visited him at work, and has a good sense how things worked within the walls (at least from the administration side). I believe Elle did an awesome job at portraying the life inside a prison. The interactions between John “Smoke” Conlan and his fellow inmates were believable, and I had no idea who to trust throughout the entire novel. You have the new cellmate who smoke was forced to trust, the bully of the Y in “Six,” and gang member with crazy connections on the outside.

There was an incredibly fine line between good and bad in Smoke’s world, and yet he knew how to handle himself in just about every situation. An overarching theme I noticed was that you never know who trust; the good guys can be bad, and bad guys can be good. I really enjoyed his narrative, and I liked the way in which his backstory was told through flashbacks; we weren’t left with many questions, if any about why he was there, why he is the way is, etc.

The other thing I really liked in the book was his relationship with Pink. At the beginning of the novel, it’s apparent that Smoke doesn’t think he deserves much out of life, and once he meets Pink, she shows him that it’s possible for someone to care about him without wanting something in return. That’s how his life goes; he’s constantly trading information for more information to keep his butt covered and save while in the Y. Pink was feisty, she was strong, and she was the only person who could see him when he projected, haha. I wish we would’ve been able to found out a smidge more of her backstory.

For the most part, the plot moved quickly and we got a good sense of each character and the way things went down in the Y. There were a couple of completely random plot points and character involvements that didn’t really do much in regards to carrying the plot forward, but in all honesty, there were kind of easy to look over and brush under the rug. This book is super short for my standards, coming in at just 336 pages. The ending felt a bit rushed, and the epilogue was a letdown without much of a conclusion, but even if were more fleshed out, I couldn’t see the book ending any other way. Not with where the plot was headed.

Overall, I’d recommend this book. It doesn’t really fit into one category; it had elements of paranormal with the astral projection, mystery with finding out who really killed his teacher, and a bit of thriller as they ventured deeper into the mystery. Yet somehow, all of it fit into the kinds of books that I enjoy reading, and I didn’t feel like I stepped outside of my comfort zone whatsoever.

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6 thoughts on “Critique | Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano (Spoiler-Free)

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