Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Burning--Elana K. Arnold

Title: Burning
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2013
Pages: 320 p.
Source: library ebook
Compensation: None

I'm a fan of Elana K. Arnold's two other books, Sacred and Splendor, so when I saw her third book was available in my library's ebook collection, I decided to read that one as well.

Burning is a story of teenage angst and yearning for freedom told in alternating points of view (Ben and Lala). Ben is spending his last summer at home before attending college in the fall. He's one of the lucky ones with a scholarship to a good school so he doesn't have to worry too much about his entire town shutting down when the local gypsum plant closes. Even though his future is promising, he still has a lot of guilt that his friends' futures are not and he often wonders if he is doing the right thing by leaving his family. Lala is a gypsy girl who travels with her family to Ben's small town to make some money reading fortunes for the people on the way to the Burning Man festival. When Lala reads Ben's fortune it changes both of their lives forever.

Ben might be conflicted about his future, but his choices are pretty clear cut: Go to college on his scholarship and be able to get a good job and have a good future, or stay with his friends and family and give up that dream. Lala's future is already decided for her. Her parents have arranged her marriage, even though she's only 16, and she is destined to live the gypsy lifestyle: making babies, obeying her husband, and reading fortunes. She has no choices for her future… until one day she realizes that she does.

This book is not as strong as Arnold's other two. The chapters told in Lala's voice are much better than Ben's. Arnold tries a little too hard to differentiate between the two voices. There are lots of references to body parts in crude language in Ben's point of view. Lala's story is also much more interesting than Ben's dilemma about going off to college while his town disintegrates. This would have been a much stronger novel if it had been able to focus on just Lala. As it is, it is still enjoyable. Girls will like the Romeo & Juliet aspect of forbidden love.

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