Hello everybody. Today’s post is a spoiler free review of Mason Deaver’s YA Contemporary novel The Ghosts We Keep, followed by an interview with the author. This post is also part of a book tour organized by Hear Our Voices Book Tours. You’ll find more information about the tour at the end of this post, as well as links to all of the other blogs that are also participating in it.
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.
My review of The Ghosts We Keep
The book opens with Liam struggling to cope with the loss of their brother, who has recently passed away. Over the course of the story, we follow Liam as they come to terms with their grief and slowly begin to heal from what happened. The book offers a very honest portrayal of grief, never shying away from showing the realistic and often ugly side of it. As someone who is grieving, Liam makes mistakes, lashes out at those around them and makes decisions that are often rash or questionable. That being said, the author does a great job at showing the reader just why Liam reacts the way they do. After all, Liam is just a grieving teen who deeply misses their brother. Despite their flaws, or perhaps because of those flaws, Liam is a very relatable main character.
Liam is also non-binary and uses he/him and they/them pronouns. While this is not a coming out story, since they are out to their friends and family in the story, the book does explore Liam’s reality as a non-binary teen as well. For example, there are some instances of misgendering that occur in the story and I thought that those were handled very well. The non-binary rep in this book in general is done really well, especially since this is an ownvoices story.
Overall, this is a really beautiful story that deals with a difficult subject with a lot of honesty and care and I highly recommend it.
Interview with Mason Deaver
QaS: Following the publication of your first novel, I Wish You All The Best, what have been some of your favorite fan interactions?
MD: Oh, there have been so many. I think one of my favorite moments was YallFest 2019, when I was talking with a friend I’d come with. I didn’t have any events at the time so I was just hanging out with her in a line. And suddenly one reader comes up and asks me to sign their copy of I Wish You All the Best because another signing they wanted to go to was at the same time as mine later in the day. So of course, I signed and other readers noticed and what followed was basically a fifteen minute impromptu signing in a hot parking lot a few hours before I was actually supposed to sign.
QaS: How different was the publication journey of The Ghosts We Keep, compared to the publication of your first novel?
MD: Oh wildly. The Ghosts We Keep is way more personal than I Wish You All the Best. Both books are very close to my experiences, but this one has moments ripped right from my family life that I’ll probably get in trouble over. So it was pretty hard and scary to write this book. But it’s too late to take it back now!
QaS: When working on a new project, what’s your favorite part of the creative or writing process?
MD: The characters. I love working on characters, figuring out their backstories, their motivations, their relationships to other characters. Character work is some of my favorite work. That and editing. I really enjoy editing.
QaS: In The Ghosts We Keep, our main character Liam is passionate about making music. Through their perspective, we get to see the inner workings of digital music composition, which I thought was really cool. What was your research process like for incorporating those elements into the book?
MD: My confession is that one of my best friends works on music. So that’s not to say that research wasn’t done, but it was a lot easier to research thanks to the expert I was living with. Corey (NightCorey) was able to answer any questions I had, and taught me a lot about the production side of things that came in pretty handy. There were a lot of things I’d never even considered were a part of the production process, and I may not have retained that information because it was a year ago, but that’s okay. Like I said, the book is written.
QaS: These days, there is way more non-binary representation in young adult fiction than there was just a few years ago, which is awesome. That being said, there is still a lot of room for more representation and non-binary voices in the publishing industry. What are some narratives of the non-binary experience that you’d like to see featured more in books, and maybe even include in your own future projects?
MD: I always like to say every day we’re further than the day before. More and more trans stories are making their way to shelves and that’s always going to be a good thing. That being said, there’s still such a void left to fill. There aren’t that many books that feature non-binary main characters, or an exploration of that spectrum (like agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, or discussions of neopronouns). Aside from that, BIPOC voices are largely excluded, as are disabled voices. One thing I’ve talked to myself a lot about is the relationships of trans characters in YA books and how they’re consistently paired with cis love interests (even I’m guilty of it) and I’m wondering if that’s some underlying desire for acceptance or our books being considered ‘too trans.’ That has certainly impacted my third book because I want to start avoiding that trope, if that’s what you want to call it. But that’s a rant for another day. To actually answer your question, there’s so much space left to fill, so many authors who deserve the microphone, and we’re taking steady steps but we could be so much further.
About the author
Born and raised in a small North Carolina town, Mason Deaver is an award-nominated, bestselling author and designer living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Besides writing, they’re an active fan of horror movies and video games. As you can see from the photo above, they’re a big fan of plants as well.
You can follow Mason online at the following: