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Burning Down The House

A review of Paul Griffin's Burning Blue, a book about a girl burned with acid with a title that makes no sense.

Burning Down The House

BOOK REPORT for Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

Cover Story: Yucky
BFF Charm: Three's a Crowd
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: He Said/She Said
Bonus Factors: New Jersey, Epilepsy, MLD
Relationship Status: I'll Give You Free Coffee

Cover Story: Yucky

My two-year-old loves to come over and see what I'm reading, usually by grabbing the book out of my hands, or flipping it up so he can see the cover while I'm reading. I had this one out on the plane, and he pulled it up to see the cover, then immediately said, "Yucky!" and shoved it back at me, cover down. I had to agree, despite his lack of tact.

The Deal:

Nicole Castro, class beauty (and president, and tennis team captain, and brain), has everything going for her. She just won a state beauty pageant title, she has a sweet jock boyfriend who's the leader of an anti-bullying organization, and her family's totally loaded. Like, they have a live-in maid loaded. Then she gets attacked by acid at school, and let's just say the results are way less pretty than the Joker. Suddenly an outcast, she befriends (is befriended by?) hacker dude Jay Nazarro, who's been homeschooled for two years following an embarrassing epileptic seizure at school. Can Jay use his skills to discover who attacked Nicole, and his sensitivity to win her over?

BFF Charm: Three's A Crowd

I'd like to give a BFF charm to these two crazy kids, but I really think I'd be intruding. Watching them take tentative steps outside their shells and connecting with each other was super sweet, and I'd never want to be the third wheel. Jay's a major dork, like so dorky it sometimes hurts, but I'll cut him tons of slack. Nicole is the classic unhappy popular girl -- do they exist in real life, or only in YA books? The girl who just wants to be seen for herself, not her beauty/brains/money/everything else, and who is in major trouble when tragedy strikes. She's sweet, and I liked her combination of confidence and terror (that sounds awful, right?).

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

The slow swoon between Jay and Nicole is nice, and I'm glad it was slow, as damaged as they both are. It's not going to cause any 3rd-degree burns anytime, though (too soon? Yeah, probably).

Talky Talk: He Said/She Said

The book alternates between Jay's narration and bits and pieces from Nicole's journals and therapy sessions. It's not truly parallel, but it's nice to get both sides of the story. It makes for some laughs when each kid interprets a text in wildly different ways, and it makes Nicole much more likable than she would be otherwise. I did think they were each a little too lyrical or well spoken to fit the narrative; although I did enjoy their prose, it didn't always suit the hardboiled tone of the book. Also, while Griffin has a commendably light touch when it comes to disabilities, which are handled as issues instead of Issues, he tosses in an Issue at the end that felt out of character and out of the story, and yet it becomes the key to the whole mystery. A Dawn Issue, if you will pardon the "key/Key" pun.

Bonus Factor: New Jersey

The book's set in New Jersey, and it DOESN'T feature kids sneaking out and going wild in NYC, or going crazy on the boardwalk. It was kind of nice, despite the shittiness of the social class divides and public transportation. Also, I was just in NJ briefly, and it's always cool to read a book about a place I've lived or recently visited.

Bonus Factor: Epilepsy

Dude, I can't think of anything that would suck more than being gawked at while having a grand mal seizure. People are so lame and rude, and the fact that they really do whip out their cell phones and take videos of TOTAL STRANGERS WITH VALID MEDICAL DISORDERS in embarrassing situations THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER, then POST THEM ON THE INTERNET makes me CRAZY. Luckily, it also makes Paul Griffin crazy, and he does a great job educating folks on how not to be douchebags. Hint: it involves using your phone to call 911, not take pictures. Also, epilepsy isn't' something that pops up often in YA books, but when it pops up in real life, it can be pretty rough. No driving and potential public loss of bladder control are major nightmares at any age, but particularly at 16.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Jay's a great MLD. He's apparently cute (I didn't see it, but I don't go for long-haired skater/hacker types), he's smart, and he's got a majorly good reason for not getting out much (and it doesn't involve being unable to read). He's also not an asshole, even an asshole on the outside with a secret nice guy inside. He's just a nice guy who doesn't have many friends because people can be dicks and his home life sucks.

Casting Call

Shailene Woodley as Nicole

Shailene Woodley is super pretty (although not so much in this picture), so she'd be good as Nicole. I know nothing about her acting abilities, but I think she'd be a believable popular girl who's also really nice.

Logan Lerman as Jay

Let's give Logan Lerman even more work! And try not to typecast him as the awkward loner by casting him as Jay here. He's nowhere near tall enough, but the only actor I can think of who is tall enough is Jared Padalecki, and he's gross.

Relationship Status: I'll Give You Free Coffee

If I worked in a coffee place, I'd totally use my employee perks and give this book a free drink every time it came in. It's sweet, and tells a good story, and it really means well. I probably wouldn't slip it my phone number, but I'll cheer it on if it ever drops by with a date.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Burning Blue will be available October 25.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.