Publication: April 2nd 2019 by Titan Books Ltd. Pages: 336 Purchase: Amazon | Waterstones | Book Depository The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives... Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape. And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she'd give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh...
Why did nobody come when you smashed the radio? Did nobody hear you scream? You dry your hands and close your eyes. What is it about this house that eats cries for help?
Other Words For Smoke was entirely a cover buy for me, picked up on a whim. The synopsis doesn’t give away much but, when I started reading, I was glad of this. I found Griffin’s novel to be magical, but in a very unsettling way, and it kept me turning page after page.
At its core, Other Words For Smoke is a coming-of-age story. However, Griffin’s writing, combined with the haunted house element of this novel, makes it far from traditional. Her prose is lyrical and very much her own, and is suited incredibly well to how atmospheric this story is. Her characters are also written with incredible care, making their love and their desires and their pain seem almost palpable.
I don’t want to go into too much detail in regards to the plot, as I feel this book works best if you go in with very little knowledge of its contents, but the way in which Griffin has managed to so expertly intertwine the angst of being a teenager with a deliciously dark and eerie story-line was honestly an absolute wonder to read. I’ve found parts of this novel creeping into my mind from time to time since finishing, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
Finally, I would like to mention that this novel has a queer main character, so would be a wonderful addition to an LGBTQ+ month reading list.
Other Words For Smoke blew me away. If you like books about haunted houses and witches and teenage angst, all with a feminist twist, then this is for you. If you like books that are both enchanting and horrifying, then pick this up immediately. Honestly, I can’t recommend this one enough.
You’d shatter each one of them — you could split the air open, and Gus, poor stupid Gus who really believed that he had any power over you, is there on his knees, bawling in the grass like he’s seen God and God is the girl he walked away from and she is beautiful, she is vengeful, she is laughing.