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Other Words for Smoke

352p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062408914.
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Gr 9 Up—This weird, atmospheric, haunting novel begins at the end, with a burning house and twins Mae and Rossa left as the only survivors. Readers are then taken back to a summer in the past. The beautiful and mysterious Bevan is living with the twins' tarot card–reading aunt Rita. When the cat starts talking, they realize this won't be any ordinary vacation. Unbeknownst to the twins, Bevan is feeding the owl that lives in the walls of the house. But he won't be satisfied with chicken bones for long, and Bevan will stop at nothing to please him. Characters with slippery motives and real-world problems juxtapose nicely with the lushly described magical setting.
VERDICT Hand sell this quietly unsettling book to fans of Laini Taylor and Nova Ren Suma.

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