Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a eARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Going into this book, I wasn't really too sure what to expect. I knew that it was about a boy who was living out his sentence in a juvenile detention centre, called the Y, for the murder of his English teacher, and the boy who witnessed the murder. However, the main character John "Smoke" tries desperately to prove he didn't kill his teacher, and the other murder was in self defence.

John has the ability to leave his body, temporarily, and ghost around. It's how he gets his intel at the Y without a source, and how he got sent there in the first place. Now, before you start thinking this is a little nutty, you need to understand the backstory. A few years ago, John was killed by his father. He was an abusive alcoholic and was demanding money that John didn't have, so he hit John in the head with a plumbers wrench. John was declared dead for 6 minutes. During this time, his soul/spirit left his body, but there were too many threads. Threads pulling him up and away, mostly, but also some threads pulling him back to his body. In the end, he went back to his body and lived. So basically, because of this experience, he learned how to step out of his body, temporarily.

On one of his nights collecting info, John stumbles across a girl from his days in school, Candace, or as she's known because if her wig, Pink. Except, instead of just passing through him like everyone else, Pink can see him.

Soon, they start working together to try and find the hooded man who actually killed the teacher, because John be a lot of things, but one of them isn't crazy. He didn't make up the hooded figure to relieve himself of the guilt, like his psychologist says, he's real and he's running free.

I really enjoyed this story, it was fast paced and very unique to what I usually read. I don't know if I've read many books that take place in a detention centre, and it was really interesting to see the inner workings of the inmates minds, and how the social hierarchy was constructed. Everyone was constantly worrying about favours and who owed someone something. Nothing was free in their world.

I did really like the portrayal of the inmates, however. They were convicted of anything from breaking and entering, assault, arson all the way up to murder. But you could see that while they were considered criminals, most of them were just boys who were stuck in a bad spot. Stealing to help pay to get their mom away from the alcoholic boyfriend, finally snapping one night and setting their house on fire with their abusive stepdad inside. While some were cold-blooded killers, many were just decent human beings who just made a mistake. I really appreciated the authors portrayal, in the author's note, she mentions that she herself was the daughter of a warden, and was able to see people like the boys in this book in a different light.

I was trying to figure out who the hooded man was for most of the novel. There were points, at the beginning, where there wasn't really any suspects to go on. But as things progressed, you could narrow it down a bit more. I did think though, once we got the suspect, that was him. He was such a perfect suspect, I definitely thought it was him. I was shocked at first, but then everything started clicking. Next thing we know, it's someone completely different!

The ending definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, I had no clue what was going on, and how things would turn out. Was John going to go to a retrial? Would his final threads snap, leaving him stuck in the in-between? So many questions.

A couple things I didn't like in the story, Vivian trying help John, I just felt like that was a weird thing to add in, Pink was already helping him so we didn't really need Vivian, and the epilogue. Most times, I'm all for the epilogue, even asking for it at the end of a book, and maybe I would have with this one too, but I just felt like it was a little unnecessary. John made his decision at the end of the book, I didn't think we needed to see how that was playing out a few months later.

Overall, however, I did really enjoy this book. It offered some insight into the world of places like the Y and the minds of those who are in them.