SMOKE by Darcy Woods
I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and Libro.fm, online retailers that support independent booksellers. If you make a purchase by clicking through the links in this post, I will receive a commission. For more information, see my “About” page.
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Honor’s dad has suffered from flashbacks since he returned from Iraq before she was born, but lately they seem to be getting worse. When she discovers a letter in his dresser announcing a change to his benefits–and a loss of money they count on to make ends meet–Honor is horrified to imagine losing the house. Or worse, losing the greenhouse business that’s their livelihood. Honor doesn’t want to burden her older brother, who already takes it upon himself to protect her from bullies, so she comes up with a plan on her own. If she could set up her own grow-room, she could sell marijuana, just until she earns enough money to pay off the family’s debt. But breaking into the drug business has its dangers, and when she begins to suspect that her bullies aren’t behind all of the mysterious harassments she’s been facing, Honor has to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice–and who she wants to be.
So refreshing to find a book “about” PTSD that isn’t soul-crushing! The depiction of Honor’s dad’s mental illness is gritty and real–as is the anxiety Honor experiences as a result–but what this book is really about is the lengths to which a person will go to help the people they love. So despite the heavy thematic material, the suspense and thriller elements, and the nebulous shades of morality, hope and love are consistent threads. For all her questionable choices, Honor’s deep, emotional motivations compel readers to cheer for her–even at the moments where we’re watching her destroy a relationship. This book is excellent. The drug trade might preclude it from many classrooms and book clubs, but there is a lot of meat for discussion here. I highly recommend it to fans of YA contemporary and character-driven thrillers.