~John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
Q1: Hi, Smoke! Can I call you, Smoke? Or is it, John? Well, anyway: how are you today? You look...good.
*narrows his eyes through the Plexiglass divider*
“I guess that depends on who you are. The boys inside call me Smoke. Everyone else calls me John. Since I’m in here and you’re out there, maybe that ought to clear things up for you.”
Q2: Speaking of Smoke, how exactly did that eccentric nickname originate?
*long pause while he wonders if you’re worth telling*
If you know my nickname, then you already know how I got it. But that’s not what you’re asking. You’re wondering how I do it. How I know what I know. That’s not part of the deal. Look, you want information from the outside? You’d better have something worth trading for. *taps the call receiver and darts cautious glances around the visitation room, making sure no one’s listening* All the jobs go through Martín. If the deal’s good, you’ll have your information. The better the deal, the faster you might get it. Don’t ask me how. You’ll never know.
Q3: Hmm, interesting. How has prison food been, then? I'm getting nightmare flashbacks to high school just thinking about it, so I'm sure not good.
It’s three square a day. When you’ve spent your whole life scraping food together on your own, then months sucking your meals through an IV or a hospital straw, you don’t much care how it tastes. You’re just glad someone’s giving it to you. If free food is the most you’ve got to worry about, your nightmare flashbacks have got nothing on mine.
Q4: A girl named Pink frequently comes to visit you, which is bound to raise suspicion. Would you mind telling me more about her?
*knuckles tighten on the receiver, gray eyes drilling a hole right through you*
I do, actually. She’s just a girl I knew in school. A waitress in a bar. She’s nothing to you. Stay the hell away from her or we’re done here.
Q5: So you're pretty hot–I mean, um, what–so when you're not being held in solitary or whatever – what are your hobbies? Do you read? Do you workout? Do you smoke? Ha. Sorry. Bad pun. So tell me, what do you do with your free time?
I don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t get high. Wouldn’t even if I could. Reminds me of my dad. And no matter how many years I spend in this place, I’ll never… ever be like him. I read. I go to school. I do what they tell me… go to group and do chores and hit the ball courts, sometimes. I stay out of trouble. Try not to pick fights. *rubs a fading bruise on his cheek* But sometimes, I need to buy myself time to be alone.
Q6: How have the other inmates been treating you? I can only hope okay.
Mostly, they leave me alone. They’re scared of all the things I know, and how I know them. Inside here, information is king. It can buy favors and friends… the only kinds of friends you can have inside the Y. And I’ve got more information than anyone.
Q7: And do you have anything else to add today?
Yeah, who put you up to all these questions? Fine. You don’t want to tell me? I have my own ways of finding out. And Pink? Let’s just say she’s a girl who can take care of herself. But if you touch her, I’ll know, and you’ll never see me coming for you.
It was so nice to finally meet you, Smoke! Wait. John? Well, anyway, thanks for stopping by!
Author of NEARLY GONE, NEARLY FOUND, HOLDING SMOKE, and THE SUFFERING TREE (Disney*Hyperion, 2017). Represented by Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.
And a giveaway! I mean, come on. How can you pass this up? Such a phenomenal, mysterious, thriller-y read!