Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell
An incredibly gripping YA novel that's almost impossible to put down but also quite disturbing, Nothing Left to Burn tells the story of 16-year-old Audrey, who must evacuate her home (alone - the rest of the family is away) on the morning after she lost her virginity. The story alternates between the 24 hours after she's told to evacuate and scenes from the months she's been dating Brooks -- starting with when they met and slowly moving forward. Audrey's sister Maya has recently recovered from lymphoma and Maya's dream is to become a professional dancer. Because Maya was unable to dance while going through treatment, Audrey continued on with ballet to make Maya happy. Once Maya recovered, though, Audrey ditched the ballet because it was never really her thing.
Now, she's unsure what her thing is. But, she's met Brooks and he's even more of a mess than she is. Brooks lost a brother and plans to be a firefighter. Brooks and Audrey spend all their spare time together and they're wildly in love. Or, are they? Is this a case of two flawed people creating an even more dysfunctional couple? How did Brooks' brother die? And, what happened to set off the fire that may very well consume Audrey's house?
Nothing Left to Burn is edge-of-your-seat reading but it's also pretty horrifying. There's mention of kittens being burned alive, which I had to almost mentally block, being a cat lover (no graphic scenes of burning, just mention). There are bits and pieces of the characterization/plot that are obvious but the author does a good job of only giving you so much information, and the rest is left to your imagination till she finally reveals all, in the end. In spite of figuring a couple things out, the end was not at all what I expected and because it solved the mystery but not everything turned out as expected, I found it very satisfying.
Highly recommended with warning for some disturbing behavior - Not a happy story but certainly one that makes you think. Nothing Left to Burn would probably make a great discussion book for a YA group, especially something involving adults (maybe a Mom and daughter discussion group) who could talk about the various subjects that come up, like whether or not Audrey really wanted to sleep with Brooks or felt pressured, what kind of help the two teenagers should or could have gotten for their problems (depression, guilt, anger), spotting the danger signs in a relationship. There's a lot to talk about. I found myself wondering the age-old question, "What would you save if your house caught fire?"
Cover thoughts: While the story takes place in an upscale part of Southern California and I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, of the characters have a house with a pool, there are no pool scenes at all and I'm perplexed by the cover choice. However . . . it may change. My copy is an ARC. I'm kind of hoping the final cover will be fire-related because it really is about the devastating impact of fire and fire is what gives the book its urgency. The cover is beautiful; I just don't think it fits the content.
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