Smoke and Key

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Entangled Publishing, LLC, Apr 2, 2019 - Young Adult Fiction - 304 pages

“Full of dark mystery and unexpected twists.” —Meg Kassel, author of Keeper of the Bees

A sound awakens her. There's darkness all around. And then she's falling...

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she's dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn't utter a word. There's Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key's instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can't remember why.

Then the murders start. Bodies that are burned to a crisp. And after being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she loses her life for good...

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User Review  - krau0098 -

I have really enjoyed a lot of Sutton’s books, she has a unique storytelling style that is different from other YA authors and her ideas are very unique. This ended up being an interesting read. It's ... Read full review

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Fantasy, paranormal and mystery fans who are looking for a different type of read will enjoy picking up this one.
Key wakes to find herself in a dark, tightly enclosed space with only a voice
coming from nowhere. Then, she falls. Landing in the Under, a strange place that many have fallen from their graves into after their deaths, her memories have who she was and who she knew during life are gone. Instead, she needs to find her place in a society of dead people...most who are at least partially decomposed and suffering the same memory loss. Soon, she finds some friends but, at the same time, her memories start to return. Then, the impossible happens. Someone is brutally murdering the already dead, and Key begins to suspect it has something to do with her and the object whose namesake she now carries—the key around her neck.
I'm not sure where to start with this review, since there's no way I can possibly bring the story across in all of its rich strangeness and curious atmosphere. It takes place in a space under the dirt, where types of living spaces have been carved out of the dirt. And the characters are partially decomposed, except for Key, who although laying in her grave for years, has somehow remained pretty much intact. The dead are friendly enough and have formed a type of townish society. It's an odd setting with a dismal atmosphere, and it works.
Each character, named after whatever object they might have possessed when they 'fell', gains a surprisingly rich personality. Everything is coated with a sense of mystery and curiosity, and as the plot unfolds, all of it gains in depth. The characters hook and each possess their own surprising history. The mystery itself isn't so much a hunt for clues, but unfolds as the memories return in dreamlike flashbacks. While a bit predictable in some respects, the mixture works and makes it hard to put the book down.
There's romance in here too, which is warm and yet, strange in its own right thanks to the characters being dead. This leaves an odd feel to it, which isn't necessarily bad or good. Simply different.
I received a complimentary copy and am giving this 4.5 and rounding up.

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About the author (2019)

Kelsey Sutton is the author of The Lonely Ones, a middle-grade novel in verse that received a starred review from Kirkus. She is also the author of Some Quiet Place, and its companion novel Where Silence Gathers, both published by Flux. She is also the author of the YA e-book original GARDENIA.

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