Sixteen-year-old Honor Augustine never set out to become a felon. As an academic all-star, avid recycler, and dedicated daughter to her PTSD-afflicted father, she's always been the literal embodiment of her name. Coloring inside the lines is what keeps Honor's chaotic existence orderly.
But when she discovers her father's VA benefits drying up, coupled with a terrifying bank letter threatening the family's greenhouse business--Honor vows to find a solution. She just doesn't expect to spot it on the dry erase board of English lit--"Nature's first green is gold."
The quote by Frost becomes the seed of an idea. An idea that--with patience and care--could germinate into a means of survival. Maybe marijuana could be more than the medicinal plant that helps quiet her father's demons. Maybe, it could save them all.
What I Liked:
The romance- While I wouldn’t file SMOKE under the YA romance category, it does have a solid romance subplot. I loved the chemistry between Cole and Honor and how they gradually build trust and really get to know each other.
The depiction of PTSD- Honor’s father is medically approved to use marijuana, but that is the only treatment he gets. As the story grows, you see that while such a treatment alone could work for some, his case requires a more rounded treatment, like adding therapy in, that he refuses to get. It dives into the stigma of mental illness, the difficulties of being a teen while trying to care for a parent, and more. Best of all, it doesn’t put people who have PTSD in any box. PTSD looks different for everyone and can manifest in different ways.
What Left Me Wanting More:
At the conclusion of the story, there is an author’s note that mentions the huge disparity in drug policing and convictions in Black and Latinx communities compared to white communities. Because this is an incredibly important part of the conversation around marijuana and the legalization of it, the note may have been better placed in the beginning, or the story itself could have discussed it at some point. The outcome of Honor’s story would likely have been very different if she were not white. While I’m glad this point is acknowledged, I do think it deserved a more prominent placement or note in the story given the gravity of the situation.
Though it could benefit from more nuances, overall, SMOKE is a thought-provoking read that examines important themes of PTSD, the treatment of veterans, and family.