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The Ghosts We Keep

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Perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, this book will rip your heart out before showing you how to heal from tragedy and celebrate life in the process.

When Liam Cooper's older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends.

Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan's best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they're going through, for the better, and the worse.

This book is about grief. But it's also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2021

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About the author

Mason Deaver

10 books2,847 followers
Mason Deaver is a bestselling and award-winning young adult novelist.

Their first book, I Wish You All the Best was an instant bestseller, being nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards and winning the Pink News Best Young Adult Book Award, as well as being named one of Cosmopolitan's 100 Best YA Books!

Their second novel, The Ghosts We Keep earned a starred review from Booklist, as well as praise from Publisher's Weekly.

Their third novel, The Feeling of Falling In Love received a starred review from Bookpage as well as critical acclaim from Publisher's Weekly and Booklist.

Their fourth novel, Okay, Cupid is expected to release Winter 2024.

They are also a contributor to several anthologies, as well as the author of the Audible Original Another Name For the Devil. They currently live in San Francisco.

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Profile Image for Bhavya .
476 reviews867 followers
July 2, 2022
Here is my Spotify Book Playlist!

"Sometimes poetry is more about the feeling the words give you, the emotion, the placement, and not necessarily the words themselves. But the words are what you read. And you read the words to find the emotion, so the words do matter."

~ Rating- 5 stars ~

Content/ Trigger Warnings-
Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks, Break-ups (in relationships) & Coping with a Break-up, Brief Mentions of Transphobia & Pressure of Staying Closeted, Crying, Car accident (hit and run), Death of a child, Death of a brother, Death of a friend, Death of a partner, Detailed Description of the Deceased's Body, Discussions of Gender Dysphoria, Depression, Funerals, Grief, Guilt, Homophobia, Misgendering & Not using Preferred Pronouns, Panic attacks (on page), Self-harm (on page), Suicidal Ideation, Toxic Friendships, Vomiting

Note- I have tried to include all the content warnings that I noticed, but there is no guarantee that I haven’t missed something.

-Mention & Discussion of almost all of these in the review-

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

"So there was nowhere. Nowhere that I belonged."

The Ghosts We Keep, by Mason Deaver is one of the best books I’ve read this year (second only to Letters to the Lost, which I also highly recommend!). This book is heartbreakingly beautiful and it has everything I like to read. While it has its wonderful elements, it also has some flaws and I fully acknowledge this might not be for everyone. However, I really loved this book and highly recommend it.

"No clubs, no friends, no lonely person reports. Nothing. Just bake sales and dead brothers."

When Liam Cooper's older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people they loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with their two best friends. Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan's best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they are going through, for the better, and the worse. But grieving is a chaotic feeling, and Liam is finding it hard to process their grief.

"I was foolish in my belief that grief was a straightforward thing. I thought the first wave would hit, and gradually the feelings of sadness and desperation would slip away until I found myself normal again. But I was so very wrong. Because grief is a complicated, ugly, messy thing. And it makes you do complicated, ugly, messy things."

The plot of The Ghosts We Keep is about our main character Liam (who is non-binary & uses he/they pronouns, though they have a preference for they/them) and the way they cope with the death of their brother, Ethan. I will admit, that might make the book ‘boring’ as it's more character-centered and the plot isn’t the main focus, but the book is still worth the read despite that.

"And wasn’t that what death really was? Forgetting. Could Ethan truly be gone if I never forgot him? I’d keep remembering him. I’d keep him alive with me."

The primary focus of the book is Liam’s grief, and that’s all. It doesn’t try to cram a romance, we (fortunately!) don’t have to sit though characters making lovey-eyes at each other while they are not in a good mental state to be in a relationship. Instead, we see Liam being an ‘angsty’ teenager and learning to deal with life and its problems like school, toxic friendships etc, along with coping with the loss of their brother Ethan. And I loved this, because it was a realistic portrayal of a teenager struggling.

"But knowing what you have to do and actually doing what you need to are two different things, two separate worlds."

It didn’t try to gloss things over, it didn’t paint a perfect picture of a perfect life, and it certainly didn’t follow the formula of most YA books where the MC meets a love interest and everything becomes fine.

"I didn’t know how I was feeling; I couldn’t feel anything except numbness. Simple, reliable concepts like time moving forward, or even the space around me, didn’t feel real. It felt more like a dream that I’d wake up from soon. But it wasn’t a dream. And I wouldn’t wake up."

We need more YA books that tackle difficult subjects like mental health in an accurate manner and that encourage healing with trauma in healthy ways like therapy, and The Ghosts We Keep does that. Everything about this book was relatable, and I hope everyone, especially all teenagers read it (after checking content warnings, please) as THIS is how a YA book should be.

"I wanted something for me. Maybe that was the point. To live just for me?"

The writing of The Ghosts We Keep was excellent. It's written in first person from Liam’s perspective. There are ‘before’ and ‘after’ chapters, and I usually find this style a little confusing, but it was easy to understand here. There were so many quotes that I really felt, and I have around 14 pages of annotated notes. I am looking forward to reading more by Mason Deaver so I can read more of their writing style!

"I didn’t want to die. Not really. What I wanted was to disappear. To blink out of existence, to be forgotten by everyone who ever knew me. I didn’t want to be here anymore, to have to think, to have to feel. What was the point anyway? The older I got, the more people would vanish."

The characters in this book are well written. No one is here just for the sake of it. The side-characters have a purpose, and a life apart from the MC. All the characters are flawed, and are crafted in a scrupulous manner, which was great to see.

"But now it was clear to me, I didn’t belong anywhere; there was nowhere for me to go. No friends for me to talk to, no parents who wanted to understand me. There was nothing for me. Nothing."

The MC, Liam is not a faultless person, in fact the exact opposite. Liam often makes mistakes, lashes out at their loved ones and hurts the people in their life constantly. They are called out for their actions, and even though they are grieving, all of their behaviour is not excused. I loved the way that this was executed, it was genuine and true to real life. Liam also has a passion for music, and I really liked the way we saw them using music as a way to cope with their grief. I was captivated with their journey to healing and getting better.

"That, and I was unsure of what my role would be in that world. Would I want to stay behind the scenes, produce and write the music that other people would be famous for singing? Or would I want to be in the spotlight, have it be my name on the tickets and the songs?"

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧ ✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧ ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

➼Analysing Pros & Cons

◙ Good Writing.
◙ Interesting Characters.
◙ Realistic Messages & Portrayal of Important Issues, along with LGBTQIAP+ Representation.

◙ The lack of a plot & romance.
◙ The ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Chapters could be confusing for some.
◙ Some people might find Liam annoying as a character.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧✧・゚: *✧・゚:* *:・゚✧*:・゚✧✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

"I was trying to fool myself, and if the last few months had taught me anything, it was that I was incredibly good at fooling myself. The truth would always find me. No matter how hard I pushed down its ugly head, it would find a way back in. Always. And it didn’t smell like vanilla. I still found it so much easier to discuss frozen yogurt instead of my dead brother."

Overall, The Ghosts We Keep was an incredible book, one that I am very happy to have read and can see myself re-reading several times in the future. I would highly recommend it.

"It hurt because I missed him so much. I missed my brother more than anything I’d ever missed before. And I knew that I was never going to stop missing him. But I had to learn to live alongside the pain, alongside this missing part of my life that I’d never get back. With every single day, it’d get easier."

Review written & uploaded on 11th November, 2021.

P.S.- I tried a new reviewing format, would love some feedback!

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DISCLAIMER-All opinions on books I’ve read and reviewed are my own, and are with no intention to offend anyone. If you feel offended by my reviews, let me know how I can fix it.

How I Rate-
1 star- Hardly liked anything/ was disappointed
2 star- Had potential but did not deliver/ was disappointed
3 stars- Was ok but could have been better/ was average / Enjoyed a lot but something was missing
4 stars- Loved a lot but something was missing
5 stars- Loved it/ new favourite


This. Book.
I... I don't know what to say. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. It made me cry thrice, and I never cry while reading. I'm lost for words as to how wonderful this was. Highly recommend. Review to come.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,288 followers
March 9, 2023
*2021 Favourite*

The whole story is a process of grieving. We have lost Ethan suddenly and we are dealing with the loss every single day.

Liam, Ethan's younger brother, is suffering and lost as he feels his parents do not understand him and his best friends are abandoning him.

He's a loner yet he wants to be with someone he can trust and share the pain. But things seem to go wrong the harder he tries.

There are secrets to discover, to evolve with the pain, an understanding he has to come in terms with.

There are some parts of self-harm, anxiety and episodes of panic attack which I feel might be triggering for some.

There are memories, precious and limited. Limited. That's just so sad. I was crying the whole time reading this book. Everything has been captured so well in the way it was written.

The story is so realistic and it explores in depth the grief and sorrow of the different people who mattered in the life of someone gone recently. The confusion, the trauma, the void, the reality when everything seems so unreal.

I do not blame the friends for behaving the way they did because it's just not possible to drag others with us and to make them our shadows until the end. But yes, they could have been better.

And what can I talk about Marcus. You deserve all the love.

I appreciate how the parents played their parts. I hope, I really do hope we have parents like them. They are no way perfect and they didn't do everything the best or knew what to do. They were honest. They were being mature and responsible. We all deserve parents like them.

It's not easy for anyone. But as is said, it's a slow learning process. Let's be there for each other during such difficult times. This book just embraced me whole.

Thank you, author. This book means a lot.

Emily Dickinson? I love her poems too.
Profile Image for give me books.
158 reviews1,578 followers
February 27, 2023
No popłakałam się na koniec. Czekajcie moi drodzy aż wreszcie ta książka pojawi się u nas
Profile Image for Mason Deaver.
Author 10 books2,847 followers
April 8, 2023
I had the idea that Goodreads would be a good place to leave trigger warnings for readers. Trigger Warnings are available for all of my books on my website, but not everyone knows to check there, so I wanted to share them here.

They're marked as spoilers just in case!

Content Warnings For The Ghosts We Keep

If you notice any content or trigger warnings missing from this list please feel free to email me at masondeaverwrites@gmail.com
April 6, 2021

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This was a really painful read and not always for the reasons I thought it would be. I knew about Mason Deaver from their debut novel, I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST, which I'm reading right now and quite enjoying. I liked this book, too, but not as much-- and that's partially because Liam, the protagonist, is a difficult character to like. Grief manifests in different ways, and for them, it's withdrawing away from friends and family and an intense anger that stems from helplessness. Which is totally understandable but not always easy to read.

Told in "before" and "after" chapters, we get to know Liam's late brother, Ethan, who seemed like a golden boy/star athlete/popular, but had problems of his own. Through Liam's eyes, we get to know more about him (Ethan) and his best friend Marcus, as Liam also struggles to deal with the fact that their two best friends don't really seem to want to do anything with them anymore now that they (Vanessa and Joel) are dating and they (Liam) are depressed. Apart from that, there really isn't a "plot": character development drives the story forward as Liam attempts to get closure and navigate their grief.

So there were a couple things I loved about this book. In some ways, it reminded me a lot of the book MY HEARTBEAT by Garret Freyman-Weyr, one of the first LGBT+ books I ever read as a teen (and I had the edition with the Keith Haring cover, too), only with a nonbinary protagonist instead of a female protagonist. This book is sadder, though, and it isn't really a love story like MY HEARTBEAT was, but that, to me, meant the focus was more on the message of the story here, which may have suited THE GHOSTS WE KEEP better. I also liked Liam's mom and dad a lot. The mom and dad in I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST are awful, so it was nice to see a book about a nonbinary kid with nice parents. And Marcus-- oh my God, the poor boy broke my heart about a thousand times over. I actually related to him a lot more than I did Liam, to the point where I found myself wishing that he was the narrator, but I think I might have ended up a total mess if he was, so maybe that's a blessing.

I could see this book getting mixed reviews when it comes out because Liam does lash out at everyone (sometimes when they have a right to, but sometimes in ways that seem unprovoked). The way they treated Marcus, in particularly, was pretty awful, and left me feeling kind of chilled, although I felt like their big confrontation with Vanessa and Joel was totally warranted. I guess this book is sort of a study on grief and the different forms it takes and how it informs and tests our relationships. There's also an "it's okay not to be okay" message I've been noticing more in books about YA mental health books. I liked THE GHOSTS WE KEEP but I didn't love it, basically, but it's definitely worth a read!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3 stars
Profile Image for Cody Roecker.
816 reviews
August 2, 2019
I can't write a coherent review because I'm too busy wiping tears from my face but do know this:

I will cherish this book forever and always.

This is a special novel about grief, and I felt it so hard. It means so much to me, and it's going to mean so much to you.

Eventually I'll write a blurb for this, but I'm gonna just steep in my emotions for now
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
467 reviews276 followers
January 19, 2022
Grief is a complicated, ugly, messy thing. And it makes you do complicated, ugly messy things. 
How do we cope when someone we love dies? More specifically, how does a teen cope when their brother suddenly dies? 

When I requested the ARC of The Ghosts We Keep, I didn’t realize that this story would hit so close to home. Because right now, I have two grieving teens. One cries, hugs, and talks about his feelings. The other one doesn’t show emotions at all and keeps us at a distance. I see his pain at night when he curls up on the couch, almost in a fetal position, surrounded by lots of pillows, building a wall, hugging them to find comfort. So, how does a teen cope? Well, my teens do it in very different ways, and I believe we all do.

Liam and their brother Ethan are like a lot of siblings. They quarrel and, at the same time, support each other through thick and thin. Liam has two close friends: Vanessa and Joel, but Liam feels left out when they fall in love with each other. Liam wants that feeling too and has been crushing on Ethan’s best friend Marcus for a long time. And then Ethan dies. This story is told in multiple timelines, before and after Ethan’s death.

As I said, we all cope with grief differently. After Ethan dies, Liam tries to pick up their life, and at the same time, struggles so much with their pain. They want to be normal again, the grief to slip away, but it doesn’t.

Don’t expect a love story because it isn’t. This is a story about hurt, desperation, and sadness. Liam isn’t always the nicest person, and I understand why. Grief can hurt so much and makes us do or say ugly things sometimes. There’s a scene in this book, and I could picture my own sons in it, both reacting as Liam did, full of disbelief. Liam made remarks and walked away. One of my sons would be screaming and crying and screaming more. The other one would stay quiet while protecting his brother’s things with his life.

The Ghosts We Keep starts as an easy read. My feelings about the ‘easy’ part changed when I was in bed, closed my e-reader, and realized that I was reading about a grieving teen and had two at home myself. That made me want to grab my e-reader again and read on and on. It also made me reflect on myself, and on the way my kids are coping right now.

This book is for everyone who has been grieving once, is still grieving, or has people in their surroundings who are grieving. Mason Deaver has done an excellent job by showing us Liam’s struggles. It’s raw and angry, even ugly at times, but also reflective. During the story, Liam grows as a person, and they find ways to deal with their pain and the pain of the ones surrounding them.

When I started writing this review, it was never my intention to make it this personal. But sometimes that’s what happens when I’m reflecting on a book. This one just ticked all the right boxes for me at the right time. 

There’s one tiny thing I’d like to point out, though, a personal preference, and I know there’ll be a lot of readers who won’t agree with me. I think this story would have been even more powerful if it had been written in present tense instead of past tense. Present tense (and first-person!) makes me feel like I’m part of the story instead of reading it. I doubted about the rating, and in the end I decided to round 4.5 stars up to 5.

I received an ARC from Scholastic (Push) and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
October 9, 2021
4.5 stars.

For a poignant look at grief and moving on, and learning how easy it is to miss things that are right in front of us, pick up Mason Deaver's newest YA novel, The Ghosts We Keep .

The unthinkable happens for Liam when their older brother Ethan is killed in an accident. Like any pair of high school-aged brothers, their relationship had its ups and downs, with Liam often feeling as if their parents loved Ethan more because he was athletic and had a girlfriend, while Liam is non-binary and more into music.

With Liam and their parents each trying to deal with their grief in the best way they can, Liam is struggling. They feel like a third wheel because their two best friends, Joel and Vanessa, are dating now, so Liam keeps pushing them away even though they try to see if they can help. Liam is finding it harder and harder to concentrate in school and be understanding of what their parents are going through, and they feel their mental health deteriorating.

Liam seeks out the only other person they think might understand—Marcus, who had been Ethan’s best friend since childhood. While Marcus and Liam are grieving differently, each are dealing with the loss of someone important to them and neither knows how to communicate the gravity of that loss. But little by little, Liam begins to understand that there was so much Ethan was keeping secret, so much that Liam wish they knew.

The Ghosts We Keep really was such a beautiful, emotional story on so many levels. Nothing that happened was surprising but I love the way Deaver lets the story unfold. (I loved their first book, I Wish You All the Best , and they’ve said this was a more personal book for them.)

The loss of someone we love can be devastating, especially when it happens suddenly. This book looks at grief from many different angles and shows that there’s no perfect way to grieve, but it’s easier when you let someone in.

Storygram Tours and I Read YA provided me with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!!

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,293 reviews2,961 followers
May 10, 2021
I enjoyed how this book was more character driven rather than relying on a fast moving plot. On a surface level you could say not much happens in the story but it really is such a worthwhile read because it incorporates two important subjects. As an added bonus it explores how friendships can evolve over time.

Liam Cooper's older brother, Ethan, was killed in a hit and run accident. Losing someone is hard enough but on top of that relationships with Liam's two best friends are on shaky ground. The story alternates between the present day with Liam grieving and the past in which you see pivotal moments leading up to Ethan's death.

Liam is a nonbinary character and it's something the author gradually works into the story. Along with witnessing a family grieving the loss of Ethan and complex friendships, it was a fascinating and heartbreaking read. Each reader has the potential to take away something different from the story as certain parts might resonate more than others. Perhaps it is because I'm old enough to be Liam's mother, but I appreciated the story didn't only focus on the loss of a brother but went into how the death affected the parents and Ethan's best friend.

Highly recommend reading this book if you enjoy YA fiction and/or want to support diverse reads.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Marci.
418 reviews151 followers
March 27, 2022
The Ghosts We Keep is an incredibly beautiful story about grief and mourning. About what the point of *any* of this is if it all could end so abruptly. How lonely it can get when it feels like anyone can get taken away from you in the blink of an eye. I felt myself go through a bit of catharsis reading this. It’s healing to see grief portrayed as messy and something that doesn’t follow a linear timeline. Grief can’t be shut off when it becomes inconvenient. I liked that this wasn’t neatly tied up in a bow when the end came. That there wasn’t this big revelation but several small ones. I liked that Liam didn’t make up with their friends. That the saying everything happens for a reason was shown to not actually be true. Life sucks. And it sucks repeatedly. Until sometimes it doesn’t. And then it sucks again. And then it doesn’t.
Profile Image for booksandzoe.
263 reviews1,671 followers
April 6, 2021
WOW. I loved this book❤️

This book is very reminiscent to History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera in terms of queerness, format, and themes of grief, loss, and love, but I wouldn't draw any connections beyond that. Going into the novel I was expecting a toxic romance between two who have lost somebody they loved, but that wasn't at all what this was. And thank god for that, because what we got was so much better.

The Ghosts We Keep follows a nonbinary teen who just lost his brother to a car accident. Liam has to deal with the loss of their brother, the distance of their parents, and the toxicity of their friend trio; when the load is just too much to carry alone, they forge a connection with his deceased brother's best friend. The two of them form a relationship despite having almost nothing in common, and help each other heal. This isn't a spoiler since the plot summary does not allude to it whatsoever: there is no romance in this book between the main character and his brother's best friend. If that's what you're looking for, you won't find it here, but you'll still find a beautiful love story in this book.

I loved how raw and personal this book was. The author included a note in the beginning of the book as to how this is a personal story to them, and the authenticity of their experience really shines through onto the pages. This book will pick and scratch at your heart, but will also bandage it up nice and neatly through the beautiful moments this story also manages to capture. This book is mainly a sad story, but there is plenty to smile at hidden within as well.

The entire cast of this book is queer! Which I absolutely loved! But at the same time, queerness isn't the main storyline. Theres definitely a need and a place for books following characters who are discovering their queer identities, but this book isn't one of them, and I love it all the more for that. Queer people need books about queer people that aren't about identity discovery too! Despite this, the book is still unapologetically queer. It's very similar to Perfect on Paper in the way that while the characters aren't on a constant journey of self discovery, their queerness is intrinsically wrapped into every aspect of their identity, just like a real world queer person. The main character is nonbinary, and uses they/he pronouns, which I loved because I'd never seen that in a book before!

My only issues with this book is that I wish it was longer. I feel like the relationship between Liam and Marcus could've been developed a LOT further. The current length of the book just doesn't scratch that itch I have for a fully fleshed out story with painstaking detail and lengthy character development. I think this book still functions well at it's current length, but I think it had more potential.

All in all I loved this read!! I read it all in one sitting, completely unable to put it down because I loved the characters so much, and I never wanted it to end :)
Profile Image for Hsinju Chen.
Author 2 books200 followers
June 3, 2021
I’m so bummed that I didn’t really enjoy this book. The characters are kind of awful and they didn’t get enough retaliation. All in all, I think there is too much negative energy for me to like The Ghosts We Keep, but I do appreciate the reps.

The music aspect is kind of odd. I doubt anyone who played Tchaikovsky can only remember Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” I also find the dialogues weirdly excessive and that the tones were told rather than shown (these may be ARC issues though). There is also something off about the time, because we would get a scene on a specific day and then Liam would start talking about something that happened weeks or years later.

Theme Analysis
The main theme of The Ghosts We Keep is grief, and here I analyze other elements of the story that has grief threaded within.

The book opened with Liam working at a froyo shop right after Ethan’s death, so the aspect of food immediately came to my attention. As the story develops, we get some scenes from right after the funeral where family friends keep sending food as condolences to the Coopers, who are now a family of three, and they end up having so much food they need to give some to Liam’s Nana. This is food as something meant for comfort, and yet—like all those empty but well-meaning “how are you feeling” greetings—a burden when excessive. But there is also no doubt how food is a love language, too, especially when Liam and their father go to diner as their alone time later in the book.

Then there is music. Liam creates music. He plays the piano and writes songs and so does his best friend Vanessa. It is something they shared. But very early in the story, we also learned that Liam was wearing a Dear Evan Hansen T-shirt when they found their brother’s body. It is a bond Liam shared with Ethan. And the fact that this story dealt with death and some misguided actions of angry, sad, and frustrated teens, it mirrors a lot of the main idea of the musical Dear Evan Hansen, where Evan, who struggles with social anxiety, becomes a celebrity when he decides to fake a friendship with the dead boy Connor who he doesn’t really know, and everything blows up from there. Both the book and the musical share the theme of grief and messy teens doing what they think are right. Also, both Evan and Liam relearn familial love through the process of hurting, being hurt, and becoming better people.

Even if you’d never been through the teenage rebellion phase, you must know someone who had. In Deaver’s The Ghosts We Keep, we have a full cast of queer high schoolers who aren’t happy and nice. They are teens with all the messiness of trying to understand themselves, each other, and the world.

Liam “Lee” Cooper (16, nonbinary, gay, he/him/they/them) lost their brother Ethan, who was the star baseball player of the high school, to a car accident. Their parents are dealing with the loss of a son, their best friends Vanessa (bi, Black?) and Joel (bi, trans, Vietnamese) are dating, and Liam feels left out all the time, which leads them to hang out with Ethan’s best friend and teammate Marcus. But Liam never expects to learn more about his brother, himself, and everyone around him.

The title of the book is The Ghosts We Keep. There are many ghosts in the story, none of them in the paranormal sense. The ghost of Ethan’s legacy, Marcus’ secret, Liam’s undiagnosed depression, etc. A lot of things are going on internally for Liam, but they don’t really understand them. Liam lashes out at his parents and friends’ and brother’s friend, but we get that his self-defense mechanism when feeling hurt is to hurt others instead.

Almost all characters are struggling with Ethan’s death, the Coopers, Marcus, and peripherally, Vanessa and Joel. They don’t always make the best decisions when dealing with emotions and we feel the intensity of their struggles. There is no romance involving Liam in The Ghosts We Keep, but there are other romances in the story.

As someone who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns (and don’t really mind any other pronouns), it is wonderful to see Liam using both he/him and they/them pronouns! I also appreciate that almost all the secondary characters (sans the parents) are queer, with at least one transguy, two bi teens, and one gay guy on top of Liam being gay and enby. The story is set in a town in North Carolina and there are religious ceremonies, with little to no homophobia (there is some unintentional misgendering though), so that was refreshing to see as well.

Queer teens in books are almost never allowed to err, but Deaver’s The Ghosts We Keep is messy and heavy and not pretty, and I like the candid representations of these high school students who are far from perfect. Despite the restless and sad atmosphere of the book, it ends on a hopeful note of learning how to move on while keeping the memory of the deceased.

content warnings: grief, death of sibling, misgendering, suicidal thoughts, self harm, PTSD, depression, ageism

I received an e-ARC from PUSH Scholastic via Edelweiss and Hear Our Voices Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for lavenderews.
509 reviews721 followers
April 6, 2023
Niezwykle autentyczna, a zakończenie szczególnie chwyciło mnie za serce.
Profile Image for Vini.
498 reviews62 followers
June 23, 2022
fuck !

“But knowing what you have to do and actually doing what you need to are two different things, two separate worlds.”

Liam Cooper's older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run. Now, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends. Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan's best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they're going through, for the better and the worse.

Mason Deaver is an author I've been meaning to read for a while now. All of their books are five-star predictions for me. It probably wasn't very smart to start with this one because I feel it's more heartbreaking than I Wish You All the Best, but I wanted to FEEL something!!

The Ghosts We Keep has all of my favorite sad tropes/storylines. Grief? Check! A breaking up of friendships? Check! A secret relationship that doesn't end up working out for reasons? Check! So this book just completely destroyed me.

But it was worth it!! Because every single one of these elements was so beautifully explored.

This story shows the different ways people grieve, all of which are appropriate according to the relationship they had with those who passed away. And that doesn't mean one way of grieving is more incorrect than the other, just that they're different.

I loved seeing that Liam uses he/him and they/them pronouns and how both are used throughout the story instead of just one, which is what usually happens in books for some reason.

Also loved how this story centers a non-binary character without necessarily being about their identity, but still exploring how it's tied up in his grief.

This is definitely a new fave sad YA contemporary. This month I'm FINALLY going to pick up I Wish You All the Best, and then I can officially call Mason Deaver a new fave author.
Profile Image for daphnereads.
64 reviews15 followers
July 3, 2021
I’m so incredibly thankful that I was able to read this early. I did not expect to love The Ghosts We Keep as much as I did, but this novel was absolutely brilliant and I’m gonna be thinking about Liam’s story for a very long time.

The Ghosts We Keep follows Liam Cooper who is trying to navigate life after the death of his brother. After Ethan dies, Liam is hit hard, they just lost one of the people he loved the most, but it’s also affecting other relationships in they’re life. His friends are leaving him behind, and they never talk to their parents anymore. Liam starts spending time with Ethan’s best friend, and they finally find someone who understands what they’re going through. But the road ahead for Liam may get worse before it gets better.

I don’t think I’ve ever related more to a character than I did Liam. When things with his friends were crumbling, I saw so much of myself in them. He was constantly being left behind and always feeling like the second choice, and I went through a lot of that stuff growing up. People forget that friendships are just as important as any other relationship, especially in high school, so seeing complications between Liam and their friends was refreshing to see. Liam was an extremely complex and layered character, following them and being able to understand him created an amazing reading experience.

Loss is the main topic of this novel, and Mason Deaver handled it so well. Grief manifests in different ways for different people, and Liam did become an unlikeable person after Ethan’s death, but his experience was so authentic it made my heart ache. I could feel every bit of Liam’s pain, I could see the downward spiral he was going down, and honestly it made me love them so much more. Everything about this novel resonated with me in a way that I’ve never felt before.

It took me a while to write this review because I couldn’t find the words to describe just how much I adored this story, and I didn’t know how to explain what made me love it so much. But I hope everyone gets a copy of this novel because I will never stop talking about how amazing it is.
Profile Image for kate.
1,147 reviews925 followers
June 17, 2021
my heart hurts so much but like, in a good way, you know?

mason deaver has truly done it again and honestly, I'm just so incredibly exited about them as an author. their stories and characters are so authentic and full to the brim heart. just like with i wish you all the best, I couldn't put this beautiful book down. I loved it and am already anxiously awaiting mason's next release.

TW: self harm, suicidal ideation, misgendering, depression
Profile Image for alaska.
235 reviews436 followers
March 19, 2022
no i wasn’t crying on the bus ha ha ha wdym??

the ghosts we keep is a novel that’s really close to the author, mason deaver, something you can definitely tell while reading it. i think i was about two chapters in when i started crying, and the. towards the ending i shed a few tears as well.

i loved reading about a protagonist who uses he/they pronouns, even though it is far from the main focus of this book. liam’s story is one of navigating grief, and it was done really really well.

the thing is, while i enjoyed this book and its representation + the portrayal of grief, i feel like it lost its grip on me for 1/2 of the time. it started off strong and the ending was great, but everything in between was not my thing i guess.

the dialogue also just didn’t click with me, which was quite the struggle. what i did really appreciate is that this story doesn’t have a romance for liam!! it would’ve been unnecessary and at some point i was scared there was gonna be one, but luckily not.

liam’s story is powerful like it is. i adored the author’s note and how mason deaver said they told this story like they wanted to tell it! yes you go!!

either way, this was definitely not what i expected it to be but still a recommendation!
Profile Image for may ✨.
73 reviews35 followers
June 16, 2021

(review contains brief talk of suicide ideation & death)

I’m always a bit wary of saying that a book will save lives, because reading can open your mind to new things and perspectives and maybe introduce solutions you wouldn’t have thought of, but ultimately you’re the one who decides what happens in your life and the power of doing anything really belongs to you. So I wouldn’t say that this novel will save lives. But I thoroughly loved how everything was talked about. From the main character being non-binary (and the way they identified and connected with the world) to the talk about grief and mental health. It’s a book I would’ve loved to read when I was a teenager and struggling with things.

I don’t know how to review this without getting personal, but that’s one thing about this book. It feels so personal and relating to the characters really felt like someone went inside my head and started poking at memories, pleasant or not so pleasant. But maybe, memories that needed poking?

What I can say is that I’ve been struggling all my life with the idea of death inside my own family, whether it’d be my own and the pain it would cause my parents and sibling. Or any of them dying. I also used to think a lot about dying when I was a young teenager, but though things are still hard sometimes, I’m glad I stayed.
This is a quite short novel but it depicts complex situations and emotions. I loved that it throws the reader inside this family that has lost a member and is struggling with this pain, and at the same time makes you connect with a character who is confused and feels like they don’t belong. It’s brilliantly executed in my opinion.

A thing I loved so much and that made me love the book from the first chapters is the nb representation. This is so personal, again, but this specific rep worked so well for me. I always enjoy reading about non-binary characters, but sometimes their thoughts about their gender and the way they make it connect with the outside world really feels validating because it’s so close to my own thoughts about gender. I loved that for Liam, it was such an intimate and private thing shared with people they chose. The use of the correct pronouns by specific people was so satisfying!!

Also loved to see a young adult novel with creative characters who are into art and wish to make a career out of it but also question important things like… are they gonna be able to earn a living? Like, as someone who’s worked a creative job. I’ve read too many books (especially YA) with characters doing music and somehow always being successful. I like a book that doesn’t romanticize (or at least, not as much) working in artistic fields by pretending that it’s easy if you are passionate enough, or on the contrary, romanticize being a struggling artist. A book that normalizes the idea that not being able to make money with your art doesn’t mean that you’re not talented or that people don’t want to see or hear your things. And that questioning whether you will be able to pay your bills if you decide to work in music (or really any other artistic field) is a totally valid and mature thought and doesn’t make you any less of an artist.

Apart from all that, I enjoyed the quick dialogue in many scenes. This really is a character-driven book, doesn’t have a big plot or anything. It’s really about Liam’s journey. The length was just the right one for me. I think the reason I loved this so much is because I really connected with the main character, though the story was maybe missing a few things to make it a favorite for me, hence the 4 stars.
A gorgeous book nonetheless!!
Profile Image for Pluto_reads.
121 reviews7 followers
November 19, 2022
My heart aches.

The author's note broke my heart into pieces and even though this book was written in such a simple way, it moved so much emotions within me (especially after reading the author's note). As always, I have wept reading this book because of the concept of death and grief. I highly recommend reading the trigger warnings before starting this book (such a must for every single book!).

Reading about Liam made me feel like I was staring at a mirror as I found so many parts in Liam that reminds me of myself especially the part where he feels like his friends are sick of listening to his problems. I love my friends as much as Liam does but I just don't want to be a burden. whoops this is becoming a diary entry. Anyway. In conclusion, I have related so much to Liam that it ached.

Also, what does Liam got against vanilla? it smells and tastes delicious!

Another thing I would like to add that its heart wrenching watching people stop chasing their dreams because of finance issues ):. if only I was rich, I will literally pay for everyone to follow their dreams (and help with other things of course).

Comments on the characters:
- I love how ethan treats his brother liam (in some parts).
- I love liams parents.

Highlight's (I won't include them all as it can be triggering):

“I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”

“I was trying to fool myself, and if the last few months had taught me anything, it was that I was incredibly good at fooling myself. The truth would always find me. No matter how hard I pushed down its ugly head, it would find a way back in.”

“I didn’t want to believe it.
And yet, the universe didn’t care what I wanted.”

“If one more person tells you ‘everything happens for a reason,’ I’m going to burn this church to the ground,”

^^^ literally me nowadays when I am told that phrase (not burn a church, just lose my shit)

“A friend of my grandmother’s who I’d never met but who insisted that she knew me when I was a baby.”
^^^ lmao we all got that person

“Even though I was surrounded by my family, I realized I’d never felt more alone.”

“Then again, when would there ever be a right moment to invite someone to grieve, to mourn?
There was no right moment for any of it.”

^^^ there is never a right time

“I was foolish in my belief that grief was a straightforward thing. I thought the first wave would hit, and gradually the feelings of sadness and desperation would slip away until I found myself normal again. But I was so very wrong.
Because grief is a complicated, ugly, messy thing. And it makes you do complicated, ugly, messy things.”

“But knowing what you have to do and actually doing what you need to are two different things, two separate worlds”
Profile Image for venusowe.ksiazki .
26 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2023
Och Duszki, co za mną zrobiliście?! Wzięłam tę książkę na wyjazd, a skończyło się na tym, że skończyłam w samolocie. Przez większość czytania miałam łzy w oczach. Znalazłam osobę bohaterską, z którą mogę się utożsamić. Dodatkowo mogę mówić, że jest to "moja" książka. Na pewno długo jej nie zapomnę i nie mogę się doczekać aż zrobię reread
Profile Image for Iris.
549 reviews252 followers
Want to read
June 13, 2019

This sounds (1) like it's going to have a nonbinary mc again(!!), (2) very sad, and (3) basically guaranteed to be amazing if it's even half as good as their debut
Profile Image for elio.
129 reviews892 followers
June 7, 2021
Profile Image for Alec Ashlark.
76 reviews38 followers
February 1, 2022
A bleak but hopeful story about the struggles of coping up and moving on in the wake of a loved one’s death, Mason Deaver’s The Ghost We Keep reminds us how finite and prescious time is and that we should make the most out of it with the people we love. Recommended.

Despite the story being generally sad, the narrative was so easy to read. I can’t pinpoint the reason for this. The narrative jumps between before and after the accident happened, the chapters are shorts, the language simple, and the point of view deep enough. I guess it had to do with the fact that it was so easy empathize and relate to what the main character was going through.

Liam, the main character, is a sixteen-year-old enby whose brother, Ethan, was killed in a hit-and-ran accident. I have no strong feeling toward them except sympathy. And that’s because their character development wasn’t as strong as the story demanded.

I know that the death of their brother affected and changed them but I’m not sure as to what extent, how much their characters had to bend and break as a result of what happened. I mostly only know them in the pocket of time around their brother’s death as this grieving, in-denial, depressed, and angry teen. And not much of what they’re like aside from those due to lack of a solid point of reference.

The plot is what I liked the least about the book. I was always ahead of it. In fact, three chapters in and I already knew how the story was going go. I was never surprised. But that might be a case of “it’s me, not the book”. Also, my opinion wasn’t improved by the fact it was Ethan, despite being already dead, that move the plot along more instead of Liam, the main character.

The theme is what I liked the most. Grief and regret, to an extent, is universally resonant. We’ve all lost something or someone, in one way or another, that we wish we haven’t. The theme made me feel the most because it was so easy to imagine myself being in Liam’s situation, and it’s what kept me thinking about the book long after the end.

Obviously the The Ghost We Keep isn’t perfect, far from it actually. But it’s a meaningful and hopeful story that re-taught me an important lesson that preoccupation made me forget. Life is short, so live and love.

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Profile Image for Adri.
947 reviews801 followers
April 26, 2021
CWs: child/sibling death; grief; references to deadly car accident; PTSD, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks; brief mention of vomit; self harm and suicide ideation; some instances of misgendering

Mason Deaver has truly outdone themself in this nuanced exploration about how grief defines and changes us.

While The Ghosts We Keep is certainly a heavy, harrowing, and possibly triggering story for some readers, I think it's also very much a necessary story that puts the reader on a path towards catharsis. So often in fiction—and in life—death can be romanticized as it gets processed, and that's especially true for the dead, who we are often told to remember "kindly." But grief and loss is so much more complicated than that, and this is a book that intimately understands the ups and downs of that process.

I love this story explores different degrees of grief. Not every single person has the same kind of relationship with the deceased, by definition. Some are parents, some are siblings, some are friends, some are lovers, and some are merely acquaintances. This is a story that shows how different people grieve in their own ways, all of which are appropriate and valid according to the unique relationship they had with the person who passed away. No single relationship can truly capture the fullness of one life, and therefore no two people's grief will look exactly the same. And that doesn't mean one way of grieving is "less" than the other, just that they're different.

Liam is realizing that they're at a very different point with their grief as compared to their parents, their family, and their classmates. While his parents might be ready to start sorting through Ethan's belongings, for example, Liam may not be at that point yet, and he has to learn that that's okay.

The story also explores how people outside of the immediate family relate to death and loss. If someone's only experience with loss is through a distant family member or a friend of the family, then that's a very different experience than losing a sibling or a son, and thus makes it almost impossible to "relate" to Liam's experience. Again, that doesn't mean what those other people experienced wasn't "real," but merely that it's a different type of loss that doesn't always neatly project onto the way someone else is grieving. This loss is something that Liam has work through themself at their own pace, even when they can't understand their own feelings or end up lashing out at other people. Grief is not this nice, convenient, neat, one-size-fits-all experience, and this story really gives Liam the space to go through it, for better or worse.

I also love how this story centers a non-binary character without necessarily being about non-binaryness at all, but also intimately understanding how Liam's non-binary identity is tied up in his grief.

When someone close to us dies young, there can be a tendency to venerate the dead and compare yourself to them, wondering if you "deserve" to live when they didn't get that chance. Liam is not only grieving the loss of their brother, but feeling burdened by being their parents' "last shot" at having a "normal," successful kid. That feeling is compounded by his queerness, because he's always thought of Ethan as "the normal one," "The Golden Boy," and his parents' shot at having some semblance of a "family legacy." He's very aware of how his future looks different than anything his parents would've imagined for Ethan, and how he can't give his parents the same things Ethan could have, just because of who he is and what he wants for himself.

This leaves them feeling a lot of shame and anxiety, simply because there is no defined, clear-cut path towards queer futures, and in fact queer futures are sometimes beyond our imagination simply because they've been erased from public consciousness. So Liam finds themself wondering how they can possibly fill the void that Ethan's left behind in their family, and if they're even meant to try in the first place.

I also appreciate how honestly this story tackles toxic friendships and friendship break-ups, which we don't see often enough in YA. Liam's best friends, Vanessa and Joel, are not only seeing less of Liam now that they're dating each other, but they find Liam's grief to be "a downer" and "an inconvenience" simply because Liam isn't ready to open up about it. So not only is Liam left dealing with anger, confusion, and heartbreak all at once, but they're also struggling to navigate how people expect them to perform grief. He's cycling through all these emotions, which can sometimes be destructive, and that only gets compounded by friends who are mishandling his processing of grief. Sometimes the people closest to us aren't the right people to help us through difficult things, and sometimes those relationships exacerbate toxic behavior and situations, even if all parties are trying to come from a "good place"—and it's important to know when to walk away from relationships that aren't serving us.

But as much as this story deals with loss—losing a brother, losing connection to other people, losing friends—it's still ultimately about what Liam gains. Through all of this, Liam gains a new friendship with Ethan's best friend, Marcus. They gain a new understanding of their brother as they go through his things and hear from the people who were closest to him. They gain confidence in their right to process and explore their feelings as they see fit, even if it's not "correct" by someone else's standards. They gain the knowledge to recognize when to let go of—or change—relationships that are hurting them and, more importantly, how to ask for help.

So is this a sad book? Yes. But it's also powerful, insightful, hopeful, and cathartic. It's a story about grief, obviously, but it's also perfect if you're looking for a story with a queer MC that isn't inherently about queerness, or if you want a story without a romantic storyline, or a story that beautifully handles growing through friendship break-ups. There's so much packed into this book, and it's written with such care and nuance, as only Mason Deaver can display.

This is the second perfect book that Mason has written, in my humble opinion, and I think if you're in the right place to handle it, then it is absolutely essential reading.
Profile Image for  Gabriele | QueerBookdom .
291 reviews147 followers
June 3, 2021
DRC provided by PUSH via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.

Representation: queer non-binary protagonist, bisexual Black secondary character, bisexual trans Vietnamese-American secondary character, gay secondary character, queer tertiary character.

Content Warning: grief, death, transphobia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicide ideation, self-harm.

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver is a beautiful, moving novel about grief, loss, how those feelings affect us and the very slow process of healing.

Ethan Cooper dies at eighteen after being run over by a car during a routine run. In the aftermath of his death, his younger sibling Liam is wrecked by the grief they feel for the loss of their older brother.

This is the second novel by Deaver I read and I love how they always manage to trap me in the web of their wonderful words and how emotional I become when reading one of their books.

When I started the book I was not feeling really great and strangely enough this story about grief actually helped me a little. I loved reading about a character who is not perfect and makes mistakes and says things he should not; Liam’s whole process towards healing; and the way queerness is so normalised in the novel. The only thing I hated were Liam’s so-called “friends”. I hated Joel the tiniest bit less than Vanessa because he actually tried, although too late, to mend the broken relationship, but they were both such horrible friends to Liam, it made me so furious.

Mason Deaver’s books are ones I will always recommend because the writing and content really connect with me. I noticed it with their first book, which was the book that first made me realise I am not a man, at least subconsciously (it took me another year circa to fully realise I am non-binary). And every time I read one of their books, even one so sad as The Ghosts We Keep, I feel good in a sense.

The Ghosts We Keep is an extremely sad novel, which I weirdly devoured quickly, that I cannot not recommend.
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