Sunday, September 16, 2012

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Title: Burn for Burn
Authors: Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tours
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author interview | author website

Burn for BurnBIG GIRLS DON'T CRY...

Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she's ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. And she's ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they each had a taste.


The use of vengeance as motivation in novels is one of my favorite motivations. It's the main reason I like The Count of Monte Cristo, aka the ultimate revenge book. I even have a small stuffed pig named Nemesis, her namesake being the Greek goddess of vengeance and divine retribution. Vivian and Han's collaboration seemed like it was perfectly tailored to suit my love of fictional vengeance, but it ended up falling flat in more than a few areas--especially concerning the cheerleaders' duties to the football players.

One-hundred fifty pages into the book, it seemed this was going to be a solid four-star read. The girls had the potential to be fully realized characters worth getting invested in, though they hadn't managed to actually gain that sort of depth in those first one-hundred fifty pages. They still had plenty of time to develop. Little happened to start with, but there was something about the book and the way it was written that kept me reading and wouldn't let me put it down. All but the first twenty pages were read in a single day.

Sadly, as the book went on, it kept getting worse. I ignored a few prose/bad word choice problems because this is an ARC and I expect such blatant errors as a thumb and a ring finger being next to one another and eyes doubling their size (not just widening, but growing twice their size) to be caught before final copies are made.

Other problems are not as easy to ignore. Lillia calling a girl slutty took away one star, as is my policy. Another half-star was lost because as a big football fan, I can tell proper research was not done on the system used to give football players their numbers. I spent over half an hour confirming that a quarterback would not be number sixty-three and that kind of distraction wasn't good for me. Lillia also holds the Idiot Ball for a moment when she thinks sunburns are just a cosmetic issue and don't actually hurt. Even when they're really bad sunburns all over a person and it's her fault they're sunburned.

Then I came to this.

In the school Lillia, Kat, and Mary attend, each cheerleader is assigned a football player at the beginning of the year and given his name, birthday, favorite kind of cookies, locker numbers and combinations, home address, cell phone number, etc. in order to take care of him. The cheerleader's job is to support him, decorate his locker, bake him cookies on game days (and probably his birthday too), and keep him happy. If one of the girls doesn't cheer for her assigned player at a game, she is reminded of the commitment she made to that player. You mean, the commitment she was forced into, since she is not allowed to choose or object to her assignment? Only the head cheerleader, Rennie, and the football players have any say in who is assigned to who.

This can't be excused as a creation of the antagonist Rennie either. Considering she was assigned to someone her freshman year, it appears she inherited it. The only objection to this blatant, offensive use of gender roles is a mild one coming from a cheerleader who isn't happy she was assigned a player who will never make it onto the field. The only reason this cheerleader-football player dynamic appears to be in the book is to give Lillia a way to find Alex's locker combinations and numbers. There has to be a less offensive way to get her the same information!

I nearly quit right there because I was unhappy about Lillia's sexual assault being almost completely glossed over too, but I was so hopeful that I kept reading. Lillia's beef with Alex, which was her motivation to seek vengeance, could have been resolved with a simple conversation and the way that one conversation was held off on until the very end of the book was a rather contrived way to keep her going. The pranks, somewhat "tame" things like switching a guy's sunscreen with zit medicine that makes their skin really sensitive to sunlight and trying to keep Rennie from winning homecoming queen, suddenly lead to a prank that almost kills someone. In the end, none of the girls got the depth their characterizations gave them the potential to have.

The slight supernatural touch at the end--think Carrie--and the cliffhanger make me want to stick around for book two, as well as my desire to see these girls grow. Maybe with more books, the potential they have to be well-formed characters who feel real will be realized. As is stands, this is one of the biggest disappointments I've had in 2012.

1.5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Crewel by Gennifer Albin