The cover of Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst. A young man staring at a rising flame

About the Book

Title: Every Inferno
Published: 2014

Cover Story: Ring of Fire
Drinking Buddy:
I Think You’ve Had Enough
Testosterone Level:
Uncoiling the Spring
Talky Talk:
He Doth Protest Too Much
Bonus Factors:
LGBT Who Cares?, Awesome Doctor
Bromance Status:
That First Awkward Kiss

Cover Story: Ring of Fire

A boy, and fire. Just like in the book. At least his face isn’t giant

The Deal:

When J.J. was five, he lost his parents in a horrible theater fire. One that was deliberately set. He only survived because he was using the bathroom at the time. He was sent to live with his very young aunt who gave up her career to raise him. His baby sister Penny, however, was adopted by his mother’s friend, Darryl (that’s a woman).

Now fifteen, J.J. is angry and depressed. Darryl rarely allows him to see Penny. J.J. drinks a lot, torments his aunt, and flies into a rage every time someone asks him about the fire.

Only now he’s starting to have a recurring dream. Something happened in that bathroom. There was someone else there. Someone with a bucket of turpentine and a tattoo on his arm. Is he remembering the arsonist? Has it been too long to reopen the case?

J.J. Has some digging to do.

Drinking Buddy: I Think You’ve Had Enough

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Not that I don’t like J.J., but a major part of this book is him dealing with his alcoholism. He’s a damaged kid who has trouble relating. Fortunately, there are people out there who are determined to help him, whether he wants it or not.

Testosterone Level: Uncoiling the Spring

So J.J. is wound tighter than a spring, and every so often something will set him off, causing him to get in trouble. Then Darryl punishes him by not letting him see his sister, his aunt grounds him, he starts drinking, and the whole cycle starts again. It’s not until others intervene that he starts realizing he can live life another way.

Plus he has an arsonist to flush out. And maybe the guy doesn’t want to be found. Maybe he’d like to shut J.J. up real good. That’s kind of bad ass

Talky Talk: He Doth Protest Too Much

This publisher only prints LGBTQ literature, so I was waiting for it. J.J. starts sneaking into the public library where Penny gets tutored so he can spend time with her without Darryl knowing. And wouldn’t you know it, her tutor is McKinley, an openly gay guy from J.J.’s English class. A hell of a nice guy. A guy who’s willing to help J.J., both with his sister and the investigation. A guy who wants J.J. to curb the partying and maybe work more on his poetry.

It’s hilarious to watch J.J.’s reaction to his first encounter with a homosexual.

McKinley: So about your sister…

J.J.: I’m not gay!

McKinley: I’ve been thinking about that fire…

J.J.: I don’t want to go out with you, okay!

McKinley: I think  you should write more poetry…

J.J.: Stop coming on to me! I’m not interested!

McKinley: Are you like this around girls?

McKinley offers nothing buy amused friendship. J.J. on the other hand is starting to kind of wish he’d show interest of another sort. And then he’s embarrassed and gets angry and goes on another bender. Fortunately, McKinley is willing to wait for J.J. to decide what he wants. In the mean time, there’s that unsolved murder to deal with.

Bonus Factor: LGBT Who Cares?

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Okay, so J.J. realizes he’s gay and hooks up with McKinley. However, that’s a subplot. The main focus of this book is J.J. finding the murderer, dealing with his family, and getting his life back under control. If Parkhurst had written McKinley as a girl, it wouldn’t have greatly affected the story arc.

YA literature is mirroring the young people in this country: yeah, some of them are gay, but that’s not what defines them as a person.

Bonus Factor: Awesome Doctor

J.J. is in a minor accident and meets Dr. Ben. As it turns out, he was the one who pulled little J.J. out of the burning theater years ago. And he lost his daughter in that fire. They’ve both lost loved ones, they both need closure, and…they’re both gay.

J.J. never had a father. Dr. Ben lost his daughter. Who knows, maybe they can help ease the other’s pain a little. If J.J. could uncoil the spring and open up a little.

Bromance Factor: That Awkward First Kiss

Okay, maybe it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’ll always remember this read. Thanks for helping me sort things out.

FTC Full Disclosure: My name is on the cover blurb, so obviously I got a copy for free. But no money.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.