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Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made

A review of Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, a story (and protagonist) that doesn't conform to society's rules.

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made

BOOK REPORT for Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

Cover Story: Legit
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Bare Bones
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Go
Relationship Status: Rock Show Kindred Spirit

Cover Story: Legit

There's part of me that thinks this cover is trying a little too hard to be edgy, but the other part of me is relieved to carry around a book with no trace of pink or angsty models. Plus, the quote is from A.S. Mothereffing King! RESPECT! And the match actually has something major to do with the story, so it's not just some lame metaphor for the sparks of conflict or chemistry, etc.

The Deal:

Kid is a teenage runaway who spends most nights sleeping in the basement of a bar in Hipster Central, a.k.a. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's unclear whether Kid is a boy or a girl, gay or straight, but one thing's for sure: Kid doesn't play by society's gender rules, and Kid is no longer welcome at home. Instead, Kid finds a kindred spirit in Scout, a fellow runaway who shows up one morning at the bar, ready to form a band. As their friendship blossoms, Kid flashes back to Felix, a former love who lived in an abandoned warehouse that mysteriously burned down. Nursing a broken heart, Kid searches for healing through Scout, through family and through finally revealing the truth about the warehouse fire.

P.S. I'm not looking for snaps here, but this was a TOUGH book report to write, because A) I didn't want to use pronouns. B) I didn't want to spoil anything, and this is a v. short book, so it would be easy to spoil. From the amount of effort it took me just to write "the deal" paragraph, I gotta give Steve Brezenoff some major pants for writing an entire book without revealing the gender/orientation of two main characters.

BFF Charm: Yay

Kid, this BFF charm is, like, totally symbolic, because my heart broke for you over and over while reading this book. But what's great about you is that you don't often wallow in self-pity. You have SO MUCH to complain about, but instead, you focus on your music and enjoying what you can out of each day (even when there's not much to enjoy). In spite of what you've been through, you're still only sixteen, and I love that you manage to maintain a bit of naive innocence and a zest for life. At the risk of sounding like a lame adult, I would love to introduce you to communities who would welcome you and support you, and I guarantee I could get a ton of folks to come out to your next band performance and buy you all of the Coke in the world.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

I'm ashamed to admit that my brain kept trying to categorize Kid and Scout, as if knowing the gender would make the romantic scenes easier to picture. I guess that's why society needs more books like this one! Kid's burgeoning feelings for Scout are sweet and enticing with hopefulness, and Kid's memories of Felix are drenched with blind adoration, a dizzying mix of light and dark. I understood the magnetism of Felix, but I could also sense the despair, which made that relationship less swoonworthy in its gritty reality.

Talky Talk: Bare Bones

Brezenoff writes in a straight-up style, with extremely believable dialogue and stabs of emotion. I like this bare bones approach, but I wish the bones had a bit more meat on them. I especially wanted to know more about Kid's parents and their conflicts with Kid, and I think some background or flashbacks would've lent more emotional intensity to their scenes together. I felt for Kid, but the vague history with the parents didn't grab my heart like some of the other plot lines in the book. And without spoiling anything, I felt like the warehouse fire explanation was thrown in as an afterthought without much connection to the greater purpose of the book. In other words, I wish this book had been longer! And, when you think about it, that's the best kind of complaint you can make in a literary review.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

As I've already pointed out, this book is kickass in its gender-bending, sexually ambiguous ways. It may not be the first of its kind, but this novel is definitely a pioneer, and I applaud its bravery and authenticity.

Bonus Factor: Go

Kid lives in the nocturnal world, when the darkness can swallow all matter of sins. It's a fascinating look at life on the outskirts, and it makes you feel like you're really there, which is exactly how I felt about raves when I saw the film Go. And yes, I realize that's a totally dated reference, but I'm not embarrassed because hello, Timothy Olyphant is SO HOT in that movie!

Casting Call:

Since I have no idea about the gender or sex of Kid or Scout, it's tough to make a casting call for this book. But Felix came super easy to me.

Taylor Kitsch as Felix

Relationship Status: Rock Show Kindred Spirit

When I saw this book at a local rock show, I was immediately intrigued. It wasn't the type of story that could be labeled quickly or easily, and every time I tried to talk to it, it was charming yet enigmatic. Both of us were near the front, because we really cared, and we bonded by preventing assholes from trying to push past us. And then the band played my favorite song, and I felt every single lyric, and I could tell the book could too. We pumped our fists together and jumped up and down, and I got a glimpse into the book's soul. But too soon, the show ended, and the bar announced last call, and we went our separate ways. It sucks, because I was hoping maybe something deeper would come out of it, but I'm still grateful that I got to share a great night with such a unique book.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Carolrhoda LAB. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Brooklyn, Burning is available in stores now.

Want to get to know Kid and Scout? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).