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.
The Ghosts We Keep, by Mason Deaver
1st person, single character POV
Themes: family dead, mental health, coming out, family relationships, friendship
Triggers: grief, anxiety, PTSD, survivor’s guilt, hit-and-run resulting in death
Genre: LGBT fiction, family dynamics, YA
Reps: LGBT, POC, Vietnamese, non-binary.
I’m honestly not sure that I know what to say about this book. The Ghosts We Keep gave me a permanent lump in my throat, from almost page one, to well after ‘The End’, and I don’t know whether to thank Deaver for the mass purge of emotional stress and tension all that crying helped with, or to curse them for the fact I felt utterly and honestly broken for every one of the 317 pages.
The Ghosts We Keep is a story of a family torn apart by the senseless, unexpected death of their son, by a hit-and-run driver, while he was jogging on their street. Haunted by the loss of his big brother, Ethan, – almost of graduating age, and someone he almost asked to spend the day with him instead – Liam can’t cope with his grief. Already struggling with some mis-gendering – as Liam is non-binary, and goes by he/him or they/them, but doesn’t like masc terms like ‘dude’, ‘son’ or ‘boy’, that limit his gendering to one aspect – life has suddenly gotten so much harder to bear.
Through fading friendships, intolerable grief, insurmountable guilt and pain, Liam struggles to maintain order in his life. His grades are dropping, he feels distance with his few friends, and even trying to talk to Ethan’s best friend, Marcus, is a constant emotional battle.
Told through perfectly placed flashbacks, and present day chapters, the book is divded into two categories: Before and After Ethan’s death. Because, though Liam is our MC and only POV, this book is as much about Ethan’s life as it is about Liam’s grief. The fears, doubts, and hesitations that stop us making different choices. The uncertainty, anxiety, and crippling doubts about our own self-worth, that stop us from being open and honest, and being unforgivably ourselves.
I think I connected with Liam more, because I’ve been there. While he lost his brother, I had cancer as a teenager, and I went through the same emotional swings and roundabouts. Losing friends, questioning friendships, failing lessons and not getting the right support, going through the system of needing and eventually getting therapy. Somehow, though we were on completely different paths, for completely different reasons, we experienced the same thing. And that made this a really hard book to read, for me, as well as terrifyingly therapeutic.
There’s so much I want to say, but I just don’t have the words.
Read the book.
Read the author’s note, at the end.
Read the acknowledgements.
They are all important.
The author says in their acknowledgements that there’s no romance here, and they worried how that would be received. I disagree. There might not be a ‘romance’, but there is LOVE. So much love. Most importantly, there is the incredible, touching, palpable love Liam has for Ethan, that is present in every single page of this novel. And, I believe, the love the author has for their father, as well.
If you do one thing today, read this book. It will hurt, and you will cry, but maybe that’s exactly what you need? Because, it as exactly what I needed, and I didn’t even know it.
“I didn’t know what to feel. I wanted to scream until my voice was raw and my throat bled. I wanted to cry because I hadn’t cried since I’d seen Ethan on the road, blood pooling underneath his body. I willed myself to let the tears come, but they were locked behind a door that I didn’t have the key to.”
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.
I’d remember Ethan. I’d still love him, whether he was here or not. Because he’d always be here with me, no matter what happened. He was a ghost I’d keep with me for the rest of my life.”