Monday, September 10, 2012
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
First things first, one of the three main girls in this books is Asian, and there's an Asian girl ON THE COVER OF THE BOOK! I know! It's crazy! So exciting. OK, fine, she's the only one whose face isn't fully on the cover (the girl on the left's face warps on to the spine) but still, this is a pretty big deal. Actually, in terms of physical characteristics given in the book, the three girls on the cover seem to be pretty good representations. Nice job, Simon & Schuster. Man, it's sad that I was excited about that, isn't it?
The book itself: I was disappointed. It felt disjointed. The stakes were set up to be so high, but in fact were not that high at all. Things just didn't make sense. I didn't believe that the characters would do the things they did. They didn't seem to have any reason too.
When I read the premise of this book, I thought the girls were all dealing with the same issue. I had assumed it in some way had to do with sexual assault. There were hints of issues with boys, and "going too far." This was not the case. Two of the girls wanted revenge because of bullying, and one, the one who actually was a victim of sexual assault, didn't want revenge on that person.
Lillia was probably the most confusing character of all. Her best friend, Rennie, ignored her when she was trying to push a guy off her. She was drunk and was date rapped. Does she seek revenge on Rennie, for not helping her, or the guy who raped her? No. No she doesn't. She wants revenge on Alex Ling, another friend of hers, because she thinks he hooked up with her little sister. What? Why? Why would she do that? Why wouldn't she just go to Alex, who she has a good relationship with, and say, "Dude, stay away from my sister" if that's what she felt was appropriate. Perhaps she was so upset about what had happened she was blocking it out and focusing her energy on something she felt like she could control. I would have believed that, but the fact that Lillia was rapped is never mentioned again.
Also strange was the Lillia was willing to pretty much help take down everyone in her friend group. If she hated them all so much she was willing to do these nasty things to them, she could have just stopped hanging out with them. But she still seemed to like them all, so it was very odd that Lillia was willing to go along with it.
Kat is seen as a low-life. I think because of the part of the island she was from. She didn't seem to have any friends at school. I found this odd too, because there are plenty of kids who live on that part of the island. Kat is hardly alone. She wants revenge on her former friend Rennie, who pushed her aside for Lillia. I was expecting there to be a dramatic reveal of what happened between Kat and Rennie. Surely something terribly dramatic must have happened. Rennie must have done something awful to Kat before ditching her. But it seems like there wasn't anything in particular. Rennie preferred hanging out with Lillia and stopped hanging out with Kat. Rennie is certainly an unpleasant person. She's a typical mean girl and is plenty nasty to Kat. But for all Kat's bluster and tough-girl act, she's clearly letting Rennie dictate everything about her. Kate doesn't need revenge, she needs to let the past go and focus on her own life.
Mary's story was weird. She left the island because of traumatic bullying by Reeve, now the start quarterback of the high school football team. Again, I was expecting a dramatic reveal of what happened between Reeve and Mary. He must have done something terribly traumatic to her, to mess her up so badly. I'm not saying what Reeve did wasn't bad. It was. I felt horrible for Mary. Reeve definitely was a bully that made life hell for her. But the buildup was such that I was expecting something HUGE. And it wasn't there.
So we have three girls seeking the lamest revenge ever. They are essentially just pulling pranks, until they get to Reeve and decided to drug him to get him kicked off the football team. That's quite a jump from changing the name on Alex's jersey, don't you think?
There was also this odd, half-supernatural element to the story. A few times, things happen that Mary thinks she's caused. I think they were just coincidences, and that Mary is a lot more damaged then anyone seems to think. I hope that's what it is. If in fact Mary has superpowers, that makes this story, which hardly holds together, even sillier.
Burn for Burn comes out September 18, 2012.