Adrian Yates is used to fading into the background, especially at home, where his dads are too busy arguing to pay him any attention. Drifting listlessly through mundane summer days, the only thing tethering Adrian to life is his best friend, Zoomer, and – ironically – his nightly trips to the graveyard to visit his ghostly boyfriend. Though Sorel has been dead for a long time, he is bursting with life and a desire to reconnect with the living. Adrian, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to take a break from his heavy life, and soon the pair enter a relationship of consensual possession. Through Adrian, Sorel gets a second chance to live, to reconnect with his human memories, and to finally leave the confines of the graveyard. Through Sorel, Adrian can let someone else take the reins, and in doing so, feels seen and appreciated more than ever before. At first, their entangled coexistence is nothing but the sweetest, most vibrant candy and the most exhilarating carnival ride, but as the lines of consent get blurred, Adrian finds himself fighting to gain back control of his body and life.
The Haunting of Adrian Yates is honest in its grimness, tackling taboo subject matter such as adolescent depression, suicide, and codependency with nuance. Despite the fantastical premise, Markus Harwood-Jones’s story rings true to the experiences of many readers, especially 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, who may see themselves reflected in Adrian’s perspective as he struggles with, confronts, and eventually heals from his ordeals. While the story does not condone suicide and abusive relationships, it creates space to explore and validate the realities of these experiences. Adrian’s story raises awareness that toxic relationships sometimes have the most beautiful beginnings, and that breaches of consent sometimes build so gradually that you don’t even notice how much you’re being exploited until you become dangerously trapped. By choosing to humanize the antagonist, Sorel, and give readers an insight into his perspective, Harwood-Jones highlights how partners that become abusive don’t necessarily start off as heartless, villainous monsters, and how even those with the best intentions and love toward their partners are capable of irrevocably breaching trust and respect. The Haunting of Adrian Yates is a cautionary tale about the perils of destructive dependence, but it is also a tale about learning and growing in a relationship, healing and reclaiming your independence, and accepting all the good and bad of life.