Do you know those books you finish, that haunt you, and you aren’t sure why? How some of them leave lingering questions in your mind and you aren’t sure where they’re going. That was me and Violet Ghosts. Find out all my complex feelings in this book review!
Dani’s best friend, Sarah, is a ghost. But maybe that’s normal when you’ve spent your childhood running from an abusive parent.
Dani and Sarah might be more than friends, though Dani dares not say so. Dani is afraid that if he tells Sarah he’s trans, she won’t bother haunting him anymore. Sarah’s got good reason to distrust boys, having been strangled by one.
After Sarah and Dani come across another ghost haunted by her own brutal murder, they set out to bring peace and safety to spirits like her. But when an old rival reenters Dani’s life, their unexpected friendship gives Dani a strange new feeling of belonging. As Dani starts to find his place in the living world, he’ll need to let go of his ghosts.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: transphobia, suicide, pedophilia and incest, panic attack, deadnaming, self harm, domestic abuse, sexual assault
Violet Ghosts is a book about the past, trauma, and friendships. It is a very intense book and I had to not only take breaks, but I also was kept awake at night by some of the imagery. Yes I am a big scaredy cat, but I also felt like there are some harrowing scenes and I wish I had spread the book out across more days than I did. My favorite element has to be the ways Thomas uses the ghosts as metaphors for dealing with our trauma. Trauma, and dealing with it, making peace with the past, and forgiveness are huge issues in Violet Ghosts. And just based on that, you can see how a lot of our language surrounding death, grief, and loss lend themselves to excellent metaphors with ghosts.
I immediately empathized with Dani’s character not only because of the ways he has to deal with a friendship that turns toxic, but also his romance storyline. Nothing is simple in Violet Ghosts and even days later I’m not sure how I feel about a few aspects. At multiple points in the book I thought I had a handle on how the book would progress and I was so wrong each time. From the synopsis, this seems like a book that is very focused on dealing with the ghosts, but it’s more about Dani. About his own ghosts and trauma and future.
The ghosts are a large part of the story, but they’re more an avenue of how Dani processes his life. While they have their own stories, I always felt that this story is rooted in Dani’s experiences. Because of that, some of the messages that are told through the ghosts stories, felt a little shallow compared to the book and Dani’s story. Violet Ghosts is a book that handles numerous issues such as friendships which turn into black holes. How it’s hard to break free of our perceptions.
I guess I’m still so conflicted on a few of the elements in the story and I can’t tell if that’s the way it’s intended to be. I’m not sure if they feel under developed, or just orbiting around Dani. At the end of the day, Violet Ghosts is a story about Dani. How the ghosts impact his life, what they show to him, and his own experiences.