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Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

September 18th, 2012 (08:52 am)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Doctor Who score music

There's a proverb that says:

Fool me once, shame on you;
Fool me twice, shame on me.


When someone hurts you, someone you trust, it can hurt like nothing else. When three young women team up to seek revenge on the people who hurt them, will the girls go too far and burn themselves in the process?

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian is a compulsive read, with the layers of each girl's story slowly peeled back and exposed in alternating first-person narratives. Following a horrifying night, Lillia has become fiercely protective of her little sister, who is none too pleased with her big sister bodyguard. Brash and outspoken Kat, fed up with how her classmates treat her, is ready to ruin her ex-best friend's reputation. Years after the events that changed her life, Mary needs closure but can't quite summon up the courage to confront her past.

When the book begins, Kat, Lillia, and Mary aren't friends - or at least, not yet. Rather, in the case of Kat and Lillia, not again, yet. The two were friends when they were younger, but when Kat's then-best-friend Rennie decided she liked Lillia better, she left Kat in the dust. Now Rennie and Lillia are popular and enviable in the eyes of most of their peers, who see Kat as trash. They all live on Jar Island, a place best described by Mary upon her return after years away:

My mom says Jar Island never changes. It's its own little universe. There's something about Jar Island that lets people pretend the world has stopped spinning. I think that's part of the charm, why people want to spend summers here. Or why the diehards put up with the hassles that come with living here year round, the way my family used to. (...) Another thing that makes Jar Island special is that it's a true island. There are no bridges or tunnels connecting it to the mainland. Aside from the one-strip airfield that only rich people with private planes use, everyone and everything comes in and goes out on this ferry.

As the three girls attempt to execute their plans - which range from embarrassing to dangerous - they think they are gaining freedom from the events and people which shamed them. They don't realize what they are giving up in the process. Their hands are getting dirty, and they may never come clean.

Each girl has a distinctive personality and voice. Kat acts like nothing bothers her, but she's still got a little girl inside who is heartbroken because her best friend froze her out. Kat's the rough-and-tough kind, while Lillia is polished and put-together. It's interesting to note how Mary, the most vulnerable of the three, sees herself in the beginning of the story:

I'm not the same person I was when I left here, in seventh grade. When I see myself now, I see someone strong.

Those who have enjoyed the authors' solo works - especially Siobhan Vivian's novel The List, which also employs multiple narrators and insight into the cruelty of social hierarchy in high school - will definitely enjoy this book. Burn for Burn is the first volume in a trilogy. The second volume, Fire with Fire, will be released in 2013. The final volume, Ashes to Ashes, will follow in 2014. I look forward to reading the rest of this series and seeing who ignites (or puts out) the fire these girls have started.

Note: I'd tell you my favorite passage in the book, which also has to do with Mary, but it comes close to the end and I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. If you have read the book and want to discuss it, please leave a comment below!

Related Posts
Interview: Jenny Han (2006)
Interview: Jenny Han (2007)
Interview: Siobhan Vivian
Book Review: A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
Book Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian
Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens
Booklist: Multiple Narrators