This multiple POV debut novel, Deep in Providence, is a story about family and friendship. It manages to be profound – tackling themes of grief and moving on – while also centers around three teens navigating their own loss. If you are a fan of witchy contemporary YA books, this is a must read. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
For best friends Miliani, Inez, Natalie and Jasmine, Providence, Rhode Island has a magic of its own. From the bodegas and late-night food trucks on Broad Street to The Hill that watches over the city, every corner of Providence glows with memories of them practicing spells, mixing up potions and doing séances with the help of the magic Miliani’s Filipino grandfather taught her.
But when Jasmine is killed by a drunk driver, the world they have always known is left haunted by grief…and Jasmine’s lingering spirit. Determined to bring her back, the surviving friends band together, testing the limits of their magic and everything they know about life, death, and each other.
And as their plan to resurrect Jasmine grows darker and more demanding than they imagined, their separate lives begin to splinter the bonds they depend on, revealing buried secrets that threaten the people they care about most. Miliani, Inez and Natalie will have to rely on more than just their mystical abilities to find the light.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: self-harm, drug abuse, miscarriage, anxiety, child abuse
Deep in Providence revolves around friendship. The ride or die, blood pact to keep us knitted together, variety. And what I enjoyed about this debut is that Neilson balances this connection between them with the space for their individual stories to shine. Each of these teens, Miliani, Inez and Natalie, have to reconcile with the past. Their own navigation of loss, grief, anger, and resentment. Of both living and departed ghosts.
Natalie who is trying to be there for her brother and manage the inconsistences of her mother struggling with her own addiction. Inez whose religious family doesn’t seem to leave any room for her own interpretations or feelings. And Miliani who wants to bring back Jas to reconcile her own guilt. Their stories are moving. How they ask us whether we can save ourselves if we’re too busy saving others. When it’s time to finally release control and know that we can’t force someone to change.
When we’ve finally been given the power to make our desires real, what is a little sacrifice? But these main characters will have to work out just how much they are willing to sacrifice. With varying levels of belief for all of them – about the rituals and magic – readers are put in the same position as they are. Do we believe in their power? And the layers of things which don’t add up, that eerie feeling on the back of our neck, only increases.
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In Deep in Providence, Neilson highlights the supernatural sources of power, spells of sacrifice and herbs, but also the power of love and acceptance. The ability for us to realize our own potential. Through the pressure we feel on our shoulders, the ups and downs of grief and first kisses, Miliani, Inez, and Natalie tell a story about decisions we will never be ready for. And the ones which are forced upon us. To realize that sometimes there’s a moment of release. A knowledge that change, even ordinary non-magical change, requires sacrifice and pain. But that it won’t stick unless we want it to.