*I received an audio copy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
This is one of those books that drags you in and drags you under. The writing is fantastic and gorgeous in just the right way to wrap you up in the story without being over-the-top, and the author does an amazing job of putting you into Andrew’s head and showing the mental state he’s in. Grief. Drunkenness. Deadly visions of specters and murder. Sometimes you’ll be confused about what’s happening, but that’s because Andrew is a disaster of a character and doesn’t know either.
This book was dripping with sexual tension. I didn’t even know a book could be so sexy while having so little actual sex in it. I’ve seen the words sweltering and hungry used in the marketing for this book, and yes, those are perfect words because of their multiple meanings. I didn’t know if Andrew and Sam were going to fight or fuck or both, but I did know you could cut the tension with a knife. It was all lingering touches and barely restrained fury and Andrew watching beads of sweat roll down Sam’s neck. But there was also the relationship between Andrew and Eddie. That one is hard to describe, because it was in the past, Eddie being dead and all, but it—and Andrew’s grief—was still such an important part of the book. It had such an intensity to it, not to mention the longing and desire Andrew hadn’t even realized was there until it was too late.
That was another thing. This was an interesting perspective of a character figuring out his sexuality. He was so completely oblivious to it because of his own prejudice, until everyone else started pointing it out to him and he was pushed into confronting it.
The characters were interesting and shitty and good all at once. (No spoilers, but you can skip this paragraph if you’d rather go in completely unaware and get to know the characters as you read.) Andrew really was just a mess of a human for most of the book, and his treatment of Del was awful, but he, thankfully, had some growth. When Sam was first introduced, my thoughts were, “This guy is bad news,” because he was kind of a jerk, and he has that menacing air about him and so much presence and confidence, but then I warmed up to him. Eddie was somewhat similar, from the glimpses we got of him—seemingly charismatic but possessive. I felt bad for Riley though, having to deal with, let’s face it, the absolute worst roommate ever.
As you may have figured out by now, this was not an action-packed story. It was slow and mysterious and tense and focused on the characters and figuring out what happened to Eddie. But it was deliciously slow in a way that never lost my attention. I had no idea where the book was going or what was going to happen. None. And I loved it.
There was not as much street racing as you might think, from how the book is marketed, but there was some, and the first race was written in a way that was so thrilling and fun to read.
I’m not super familiar with either the Southern Gothic genre or the dark academia genre, but I think this might have been a bit of both. There are also horror elements, because Andrew can see ghosts and is being haunted by the dangerous revenant Eddie has left behind, but it’s not a scary book. More like a paranormal mystery.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and the narration by Will Damron was great. He sounded so natural and brought each character to life in ways that suited them perfectly. Voices were different enough in pitch and accent that I never struggled with who was talking. Female voices were fine. I initially wondered why the narration had a southern accent but Andrew’s talking didn’t, but then he mentioned how he’d gotten rid of his accent, though it still slipped into his speech sometimes, and then I felt like the narration decision made sense. I’m not familiar enough with southern accents to say if it was real or good, but I liked it and thought it brought a lot to the feel of the story.
Honestly, “Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble,” is possibly the most accurate description of a book I’ve ever seen. Overall, this book was sultry, tense, and atmospheric, with messy, flawed characters, an intriguing mystery, lots of queer rep, dangerous ghosts, buckets of sexual tension, and gorgeous writing that pulled me in!
Anyone who likes disaster characters, queer rep, gorgeous writing, dangerous ghosts, grief, mystery, street racing, sexuality confusion, and buckets of sexual tension.