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Holding Smoke

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  708 ratings  ·  191 reviews
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 i
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Hyperion
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Leslie That is hard to answer. Not in an overt way. The main character is clearly interested in someone (and it is mutual) but it isn't really explored much …moreThat is hard to answer. Not in an overt way. The main character is clearly interested in someone (and it is mutual) but it isn't really explored much and his focus for most of the book (regarding her) is that he is protective of her. I would say it is about 7% romance/interest.(less)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  708 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone. Mystery lovers in particular.
***Actual rating: 4.5/5 Pink, Smoky Stars***

”All of us are broken, John. I just think that once you’ve lost everything, maybe there’s nothing left to hold you back.”

I kid you not, Holding Smoke is my first mystery novel I’ve read and I love it so friggin’ much. John “Smoke” Conlan was serving time for two murders but he didn’t kill his beloved English teacher, Ms. Cruz; as for the other one, well, he killed him in self-defense. *snorting* Yeah, prisoners always said they were inn
Candace Robinson
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve loved all the books I’ve read by Elle so far and this one was probably my favorite! The grayness aspect of it was so good. Characters that are neither black or white are my favorite.

And John! I was so happy to get a book told entirely from a guy’s perspective. Those seem rather rare in YA. I couldn’t help but feel for him because he’d been through so much in his life. Pink was awesome too. She was tough and sweet and reliable!

The paranormal aspect was super great. It was neat seeing John be
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

"I have no connections. Not inside. Not outside. Hell, half the time I can't stay connected to my self. But reputation is everything, and if people think I've got eyes and ears outside, and they're willing to trade for it, so be it. Ever since I got here, people've been speculating. Wondering how I'm able to know all these things I know. They cling to the most logical explanations, even if they can't prove them."

I think about what the warden said, about how we all have scars. How as lo
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time at a juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y. He was convicted of two murders, that of his English teacher and another boy but he wasn't the one that had actually killed his teacher and hadn't meant to kill the boy either.

Smoke has one thing different about himself that the others in the center don't have. He is not always locked up, he has the ability to do what is known as astral projection or have an out of body experience and mo
Maria Angelica
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tenho, ebook, arc, lido-2016
Thank you NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing me with and eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a lovely surprise. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. Maybe because I haven't read a YA mystery novel before that was as well done as this one was. Usually the answers come so easily to the main characters, but in this one they did not. At least I didn't think they did. I enjoyed how everything was connected and how it all came together in the end. The
Arie ☂
4.5 stars. This may have restored my faith in YA, and it just might be my favourite book of the year so far. Breathtaking prose. BRB, while I go and order all of this author's work and pray it's just as good as this.
Julie Zantopoulos
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017, own-it
This is probably more of a 3.5 book and one that I did enjoy. It was a look into a juvi facility and at a boy who was accused of killing his teacher and another student after he was violently attacked and killed by his father...except he was brought back to life and can now astral project. Turns out that's a great skill to have when in prison because you can trade information garnered when you're projecting to other inmates for favors and protection. However, it also puts a big ol' target on you ...more
A ghost and a medium walk into a bar...

Book Title: Holding Smoke
Author: Elle Cosimano
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
☆My Pick for Book Theme Song: The Light by Disturbed --For Smoke…

Ratings Breakdown

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 4.8/5
The Feels: 4.5/5
Theme: 5/5
Flow: 4.3/5
Backdrop (World Building): 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Book Cover: 5/5
Ending: 5/5 Cliffhanger: No

Will I read more from this Author? Yes I will.

The cover was the lure and the description was the hook, because who wouldn’t be interested to find out more about a person who could travel outside of their body at will? Add that on to the fact that I’d never read anything by Elle Cosimano and I was more than happy to bite and see what came of it and am very happy that I did. Holding Smoke is an entertaining mystery/suspense story with just a dash of fantasy mixed into it with a cast of interesting characters that kept me turning the page unti ...more
T.J. Burns
Gripping, exciting, well-written, Holding Smoke pulled me right in and wouldn't let me go. I had a stake in not only the main character's, but also in all the quirky side characters' lives. I wanted to know more, I needed to know more. What an unusual and creative premise!

The writing is excellent! I felt like I can really get a grasp of the people and the places.

I could really identify with John Conlan, the main character. He is a very "real," identifiable character, with all his strengths and f
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I loved every minute of this book. Totally didn't see the twists at all. Kind of sad it's a standalone.
This was a fun book for me. But I'm on my phone so I'll write my review later.
Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms
Holding Smoke was such a great book! Astral projection. Really well fleshed-out characters. Prison. Corrupt people...
Danielle Fox
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
2.5 stars.

This is a tough one to review. I loved the premise of the book as well as the setting but it just did not quite hit the mark for me.

Smoke is an inmate at the Y, a juvenile rehabilitation center, for murdering two people. And herein lies my biggest problem with book. This kid murders two people, one he openly admits to, and he isn't bound over to district court? What judge decided that this kid should not be tried as an adult for murder? The author does kind of write a reason as to why
Eden Grey
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Elle Cosimano once again blows it out of the water with her latest paranormal mystery, HOLDING SMOKE. John "Smoke" Conlan was accused of two murders - one of which he didn't commit. Still a criminal doing time at a juvenile detention center known as the "Y", Smoke is trying to recover from being murdered by his father.

That's right, John Smoke Conlan was murdered. Six minutes later, he came back to life. Ever since then, Smoke has been able to travel outside his body, and he uses this new ability
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books
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 tr
Roger Griffith
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Have you ever been accused of something that wasn’t your fault? Well I’m going to tell you about someone that may have been too, in the book Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano. The genre of the book is paranormal fiction.
The book Holding Smoke is about someone named John “Smoke” Conlan and his journey through his different way of living. In the book John is in jail for being suspected of killing two people. He says that he isn’t responsible for killing people and didn’t mean to kill the only witness
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit hard to follow at times, but really good nonetheless.
Emily Oleniczak
What an awesome book about self-worth and that sometimes, especially if you have people in your life that care about you, you can escape and rise above your circumstances. The passages about the abuse "Smoke" goes through and his deep belief his life isn't worth anything, much less saving, are hard to read but necessary. Well-written story line and atmosphere. The scenes where he's traveling as "smoke" separated from his body are perfectly eerie.
Male narrator, mystery, a baby bit of romance, a
Ryley (Ryley Reads)
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
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
(Review first posted on bookmyopia/wordpress)

I havent read too many YA books which just have that slight touch of paranormal. The few I have read recently have been disappointing especially a couple of them which are about mind-body-soul because the book somehow ends up reading like religious fiction instead of what was promised in the synopsis. Thankfully, Holding Smoke not just lives up to what is promised in the cover blurb, but also exceeds it by miles.

No aspect of the book threatens to ecli
Suzanne (Under the Covers Book blog)

I am not normally a fan of Young Adult, it isn’t that I avoid it, it’s just that when I read the blurb it doesn’t tend to capture my attention. However, the combination of the intriguing blurb and fantastic cover of Elle Cosimano’s Holding Smoke had me eagerly waiting its arrival on my kindle. It tells the tale of John “Smoke” Conlan who has been wrongly jailed for murder. But, he has the unusual ability that allows his spirit to leave his body and roam the world. Which, is a talent he uses
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
This was a great book! I picked it up because of the setting--juvenile hall. While I was in library school, a group of us started book-talking groups at the local juvenile detention center, and my friend Lisa and I ran a group in one of the four maximum security units for more than two years. Cosimano really had the setting, the interpersonal relations and interactions, and the rhythms of the place down in this book. I felt like I was back there, but with a new group of kids.

This is a paranormal
Sherwood Smith
Apr 21, 2016 added it
Shelves: fantasy
Copy received courtesy of NetGalley

There are several subjects I don’t like to read fiction about, and prison life is right up near the top of the list. But the description of this book intrigued me, and it was also billed as YA, which meant (I hoped) it wouldn’t be a long string of rapes and torture-deaths.

Well, I’m so glad I went for it—what a gripping read.

The first person narrator is John “Smoke” Conlen, called Smoke in the juvenile detention center he’s incarcerated in because he seems to be
HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano is a heart-pounding, young adult fantasy thriller.

After a near death experience, Smoke finds that he’s able to leave his body as a ghost and move among people without their knowledge. Behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, Smoke uses this special ability to gather information that can keep him alive in the youth detention facility while also seeking clues that could set him free.

Librarians will find that complex character development, compelling plot twists, a
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading Holding Smoke, I thought I wouldn't like it--another story about a kid in prison, wrongly accused or not, here he is. But each night as I read a little more, I became fascinated with John Conlon's life, his mystical adventures, his relationship with others. I also appreciated Elle Cosimano's writing style. Each word seemed to fit perfectly. Each thread of the story was connected to other threads until there was a tapestry of a philosophy of life and love, with which ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time in a dangerous juvenile rehabilitation, as he was convicted of two murders. A near death experience has left Smoke with a particular skill, one that has helped him to curry favor with those in power at the facility. When his involvement in the lives of others results in danger, will Smoke's luck run out?

Having not read the author's note until after reading Holding Smoke, I was struck by how much that she has taken from her own life. The details in the book tha
Kyra M
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Holding smoke had the coolest premise to a YA novel. A boy who "died" can turn into smoke.
He is in a rehab centre known as the Y.
I loved the connection between Pink and Smoke. I felt that their interactions were realistic as well as the others who are in the centre.
I didn't like her use of swear words, I found them out of place and they didn't flow with the story that well. I know it sounds silly but they weren't natural they were very placed.
The story didn't flow too well there were some cl
Maggie Boyd
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I gave this a B+ on AAR but when it came time for the stars, I rounded up :-)

This book is well-written, the central characters are engaging and the plot is intriguing. Readers accepting of young protagonists will find a lot to love in Holding Smoke and a lot to think about when they are through with it. To see my full review go to
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an unusual and exceptional YA book. I am not going to describe it, because I doubt I could do it justice. But I would like to mention that it takes place in a prison, and the author is the daughter of a maximum security prison warden. Which gives an authentic feel to this book. Highly recommended.
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Author of NEARLY GONE, HOLDING SMOKE, THE SUFFERING TREE, SEASONS OF THE STORM, and FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT (Feb 2, 2021 from Minotaur Books). Represented by Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.

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