book review

Burning – Danielle Rollins || Book Review

It’s been a little bit of a crazy day! I’ve been in my flat for about 15 minutes after working all day and doing some cardio in the gym (the New Years weight loss challenge is going so well… at the moment.)

There’s washing in the machine, chicken in the oven and I’ve prepped a slow cooked curry to put on in the morning after I get up early to cook some scrambled eggs to have with my gluten free turkey sausages. This makes me sound like the perfect person… far from it. I’m struggling guys. I’m exhausted after just a few hours of sleep, I HATE cardio but I have close to 2 stone to re-lose to get back to my target weight (thanks uni for all that stress eating) and all I want in the world right now is a dirty Chinese takeaway. I would not recommend becoming a responsible adult. It sucks.

But during the hectic week I’ve just undertaken (imagine the above x7) I actually managed to finish reading my first book of 2017!

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★

The Blurb

After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is now months away from release/ She’ll finally get the hell out of Brunesfield Correctional Facility.

And then Jessica arrives … She’s young – only ten years old – so why did she arrive in shackles under the highest security? And why is she being kept in segregation? No one knows what she did to end up there. But there are plenty or rumours. 

Pretty soon strange things start happening to Angela and her friends. Could they be down to Jessica? 

This little girl might just be more dangerous than anyone ever expected… 

 

Now, I’m doing things a little differently from now one. Beware, some spoilers will follow.

I picked this as my first read of 2017 because it’s YA and sounded a little bit different. The viewpoint is Angela’s, and you get a glimpse into juvie life with little hints at what she and her fellow inhabitants did to end up inside a correctional facility. The concept is really interesting, young delinquents segregated from society and answering to adults that are forcibly locking them away. A real recipe for disaster.

From the cover of the book and the knowledge that this is YA, I expected to be met with a little bit of magic or strange happenings. The blurb suggests this also. And the book does bring these into play, however, not through Angela.

A 10 year old, sweet, shy and small girl enters the facility called Jessica. Her arrival is a spectacle – on a day that inmates never usually arrive and carefully watched as she stumbles across the car park in her shackles. Bearing in mind the other inmates socialise during rec and free time, seeing such a carefully guarded child suggests serious danger.

Alongside her arrival is another newcomer to the facility – Dr. Gruen. She arrives with knowledge of why Jessica is in the facility but does not share this. Angela eventually ends up being forced to interact with Jessica who remains in segregation. Strange things start happening; lights start flickering and Angela recieves some serious burns after spending time around Jessica. It turns out Jessica is ‘pyretic’ – she can produce fire with her mind bu manipulating the air around her.

I liked this, and I loved that it was given to such a young character. Jessica is innocent and sweet and doesn’t understand what’s going on. She has great power and she can battle those around her, quite literally destroying them if she wants to. What a great metaphor for empowering women! And I say this because Dr. Gruen is there to watch and help her, stop her from being trailed as an adult because of her actions before she entered juvie. And Angela is brought on board to help also – Dr. Gruen specifically choses her, sighting her as special.

But this is where the book falls a little short. Dr. Gruen turns out to be trying to control Jessica, not help her. The evil dictator women is introduced to the text, which does have some highlights to it. Gruen is also pyretic and – by the end of the text – destroys a lot of things and people around her in order to increase her own importance and gains. Whilst we don’t get too much of an idea of her powers, I think she has good potential.

However, I’m still confused as to why Angela was chosen as the main character. She has no special abilities… she’s a little flat and gets into a completely predictable situation with the one young male character in the novel. Whilst she really does care for Jessica, almost as a little sister, I just think she could have had more to her. Even the story behind her incarceration is a little bland.

Jessica on the other hand was superbly planned. Her incarceration is because she killed someone with her powers. Whilst pyretic powers are known, they’re expected to be almost medically implanted into a human whilst Jessica was seemingly born with them. She has few memories of her biological parents and it’s suggested that she had a tumultuous time with her foster parents (I’d have like to have seen this explored a little more). And there’s also the introduction of her long lost mother quite late into the story.

At the end, Jessica, Angela and Angela’s friends escape Brunesfield, but of course it doesn’t go smoothly. Sadly, Jessica dies to the hands of Dr. Gruen. I was gutted at this. There was so much more that could be done with her character if the book continues into a series! But, then again the novel was from Angela’s POV so I guess sacrifices had to be made.

I don’t think the story is over, just because of how it leaves off  with Angela eventually making an escape to the highway and going in search of Jessica’s biological mother. But I would really love to see this from Jessica’s perspective.

There a glimmers of wonderful storylines that could really hook the reader. The writing style is a little tame but by all means good and clean. And something I haven’t really touched on in this post is the focus on diversity within the novel.

Angela is black, there are Hispanic girls and homosexuality. The story really focuses on inclusion. To both it’s praise and detriment however, I didn’t realise Angela was black until quite far into the novel when it mentioned her hair and skin. Living in a white washed Western society my imagination automatically conjures up white characters. I really do appreciate that it was totally normalised that the character wasn’t white and that the author felt no need to make this explicit at the start of the novel because, well, why should she? What does the colour of your skin matter?
But, I think she is trying to make a statement and really trying to bring a diverse book to the market. The Hispanic characteristics were obvious and quirky, I would have liked to have seen an earlier character description because it just adds to the text.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I’m glad it was my first read of 2017 because it’s given me a great start and I hope that there is at least another installment to follow.

Now, if I can tear myself away from RuPaul’s Drag Race for long enough, next week’s review will be on Asking for It by Louise O’Neill.

As always

Write you soon,

Jules


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