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OTHER WORDS FOR SMOKE by Sarah Maria Griffin


by Sarah Maria Griffin

Pub Date: March 12th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-240891-4
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

A teacher could get an entire unit on grammar and sentence construction out of this horror novel.

Some sections of the book are written in the second person (“Your scream is caught in your throat as you stare”), others have eccentric capitalization (“there are children in the house and i am hungry”), and many pages include footnotes that argue with the main text and deflate the characters’ illusions about life. When a character is told, “You will forgive your parents,” the footnote reads, “Almost.” Arrested Development fans may be reminded of Ron Howard’s dry, matter-of-fact narration. Some readers will find all the different speech patterns distracting, and the story—about love and rivalry in a family of magicians—is puzzling enough as it is. In one chapter, a supernatural being tries to bring a young witch under his thrall by showing her all the wonders he can offer. He guides her into a secret chamber where she sees…a room filled with moths. Many people will find entomology less than tempting. There are too many sorcerers’ voices in the book, and the stakes of their battles are too abstract. (The characters are white but often queer.) Some passages are also overwritten. “Love is the realest thing” almost demands a comment from Ron Howard.

Ardent grammar students may enjoy parsing the language. Other people may suspect the author is having more fun than they are.

(Fiction. 14-19)