Other Words for Smoke, Sarah Maria Griffin – Readalong

Hello Humans! I know, I’ve skipped forward in time just a little bit, but for me, this is actually day five of my book a day in June reading challenge! I just finished The Memory of Fire yesterday and this morning started Other Words for Smoke. I had completely failed to realise this is by the same author who wrote Spare and Found Parts (a Frankenstein retelling I read last year) which makes sense of how weird this book is supposed to be. But I need some weird in my life and I’m very excited to start this book!

Goodreads Summary:

Other Words for SmokeThe 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…

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Chapter One – Ten

VERY WEIRD. Absolutely beautiful writing and it’s got some gay in it – but weiiiiird. If you’re not in the mood for something out of the box and pretty unsettling I would maybe suggest putting this down and waiting until you’re ready.

That being said, I am really enjoying reading this, the prose is just stunning, not too flowery but it has that otherworldly essence that sparks something in my imagination.

After quite a few books that could be described as ‘so ya it hurts’ it’s nice to read something that is unpredictable! I also enjoy reading a fairly realistic family dynamic between two teenage siblings – at the moment the two of them are figuring each other out and getting frustrated at one another and it is SO real.

Who’d have thought something could be ‘real’ in a book with a creepy creature that lives in the wallpaper and eats bones?

Chapter Eleven – Chapter Two (of the second half)

There was an interlude and then the chapters started from one again! I fully intended to stop and then oops I tripped and fell and read two chapters.

Forgive me?

I’ve mentioned this book being weird right? Well it kept being weird but, and this is the important thing, it’s a weird that works. It’s a weird that has rules and clear expectations. This isn’t weird for the sake of being edgy or ‘innovative’. I would not at all be surprised if Sarah Maria Griffin told me she fell asleep with a pen in her hand and woke up and somehow this book had appeared. Not even a little bit surprised.

I like the contrast between the weird magical elements and the very realistic portrayal of being a teenager, with first loves and first periods all rolled in. It grounds this otherwise baffling story.

This is very short and very quick so I’m almost certainly going to finish this on the bus this evening. My guess is that it will be a somewhat confusing, very open ending – but I am willing to be surprised!

Chapter Three – End

Yay! I ended up really loving this book. I feel like towards the end the writing fully blossomed into this gorgeous prose that still managed to not feel wanky as some books do.

For a book that was profoundly odd, I actually managed to understand the ending which I wasn’t totally expecting. I think that’s a mark of great storytelling, that you can craft this unusual, kind of off the wall (no pun intended) tale that would normally have a weird ending for the sake of it, but go against the grain and make a proper book with a proper ending.

Final Verdict

I really liked this. I think I read it at the exact right time for me, when I was deeply in need of something a little different. If I read this when I needed a ya fantasy fix I might have felt differently – so consider timing if you’re thinking about picking this one up. But it is so good, and it has queer rep and it’s so beautifully written. Yes. Yes to this.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I bought this book myself. All opinions are my own.

What will the TBR jar pick next?

Fallible Justice

It’s Fallible Justice which was gifted to me by the lovely Asha. I’m excited to read this as I hear the chronic pain rep is good!

What say you? What weird books do you love? Let me know in the comments below!


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