Revenge plots are precarious. Typically, I don’t find vengefulness a welcoming attribute in a character, even when warranted. In Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian’s new book, Burn for Burn, we have three lead characters pursuing vengeance. So why would I want to read this? Mainly, curiosity involving the psychology behind revenge. Burn for Burn is told in three different first-person perspectives, which allows the reader (or listener, in this case) to get into these characters’ brains and become engrossed into their world and their problems. Burn for Burn does this effectively until the surprising end, which left me with more questions than answers.
The story follows three teenage girls, Mary, Lillia and Kat, who live on Jar Island, a quintessentially American/Hamptons-esque setting. Each girl is distinctively voiced by a different actress (Joy Osmanski, Madeleine Maby and Rebekkah Ross) and alternate chapters. It begins with Mary returning to live on the island with her aunt. She left during middle school after a horrid experience that she very vaguely alludes. She hopes to find some sort of closure in her return, but soon realizes that getting that closure will be harder and much more trying than she expected.
Lillia is popular and one of the richer residents on Jar Island. She’s a bit more timid and conservative than her best friend/Queen Bee, Rennie. However, with the start of their senior year, things have changed. Something happened to make her resent Rennie and distrust some of her friends. When she finds out that her little sister might be getting into something she’s not ready for, Lillia resolves that she would do anything to protect her.
Finally, the zealous Kat rounds out the group. After a summer secretly hanging out with popular kid Alex, she begins to having feelings for him, only to find out that he probably doesn’t feel the same way. After being humiliated by her ex-best friend, Rennie, who has made up terrible rumors about Kat throughout high school, Kat decides that it is time for payback.
The girls come together in this unlikely partnership to exact revenge on the people who have done them wrong. As the story moves forward, we learn more and more about the characters and what events led them to plan what they are about to do.
My main concern with this story was that I wouldn’t empathize with the lead characters. At first, I was a bit annoyed because it felt so clear to me that whatever their reasons for revenge can be, it still wouldn’t justify what they’re doing. Then eventually, I found out, and I felt as uncertain, yet bitterly determined as they were. I think reading the story wouldn’t have allowed me to feel as emotionally connected to these girls as the audiobook did. Closing my eyes and listening to this story, I felt I was right there on Jar Island with them. I loved how the authors showed how the girls struggle with their actions, while being authentic to teenage naivety.
There were a couple things that threw me off about Burn for Burn. The first was that it isn’t a standalone book, which I had assumed it was. The ending clearly leads off into a sequel, which can be surprising, especially to someone listening to an audiobook on an iPod Shuffle where she can’t tell how close she is to the end of the story. Anyway, I couldn’t help but feel turned off by the end, only because I was expecting answers and some resolution. The other thing was introducing the “Is she or is she not supernatural?” bit. It comes out of left field, and I was just as confused as the characters. I like that it adds a whole new veil of mystery to the story, but at the same rate, whether or not it works with the story is highly contingent on where the authors go with it. At this point, I really don’t see where or how it can go. I wish I could elaborate more, but as you know, spoilers aren’t fun. Although at this point, I can say I’m curious enough to be interested in the sequel.
The audiobook is probably the best medium to experience Burn for Burn. It puts the listener into their world in a way that I don’t think the book can. At least for me, I know I wouldn’t be able to connect to these characters at all if I couldn’t physically listen to their voices. All the actresses did a fine job bringing such distinct voices to this story. As much as I am a bookworm, I’m also a big film buff, and audiobooks bridge the gap between book and film, in terms of performance art. That’s one of the reasons I was able to appreciate this story in audio format. Also, I generally think tales of revenge come out so much better when performed. I mean look at how popular the shows Pretty Little Liars and Revenge are!
Rating: 7/10 ★★★★★★★
Burn for Burn hits book stands Tuesday, September 18th. You can purchase it at our TYF Store, powered by Amazon.
- Publisher: AUDIOWORKS [Simon & Schuster] (September 18, 2012)
- Length: 8.5 Hours, Audio CD
- Series: Untitled Trilogy #1
- Source: Audiobook
- Genre: Fiction, YA, Revenge
- Completed: September 2012