Friday, May 31, 2013

What we're reading: Burning Blue

Burning Blue
by Paul Griffin
291 pages
Realistic fiction
14 and up

S U M M A R Y :
Nicole Castro was the most beautiful, the most popular, the most envied girl at Brandywine Hollows High School in New Jersey, until one day, as she was turning a corner in the hallway, hurrying to class, someone (she didn't see who) squirted her with acid, ruining one side of her face.

Jay Nazzaro knows what it's like to be gawked at and whispered about--he has his own issues. And when he and Nicole run into each other in the school counselor's office and he begins to discover who Nicole is beneath the popular-girl facade she has worn for so long, Jay decides he's going to find out who did this horrifying thing to her.

The problem is, everyone is a suspect, from Nicole's boyfriend, Dave, to a couple of schoolteachers and fellow students, to Nicole herself (although Jay can't bring himself to believe she's that twisted up inside). But using his hacker skills and his powers of observation, he keeps digging--only to become a target himself as he approaches closer and closer to the truth.

R E V I E W :
I liked the way the story played out in this book. It's told from Jay's point of view, but with periodic entries from Nicole's journal interspersed, so you get both sides of the story--to a point. The answer to the question of who committed the crime proves elusive, and there are a few red herrings (that means false directions) along the way to distract both Jay and the reader.

The book isn't what you expect when you first start reading: For one thing, Nicole isn't the stereotypical shallow beauty. For another, the book isn't focused on either Nicole's trauma and recovery or on the relationship with Jay--they're "just" friends, and the story is closer to a mystery than to anything else, and yet...the characters and their interactions are so genuine that it's also a relationship book--but not a love story. Paul Griffin really pulled off a nice tale here; it's emotional, it's hopeful, and it's also intriguing as you try along with Jay to figure out the trail to Nicole's attacker.

I give it 4 out of 5, which is to say "better than most," and (for once) I loved the cover. The disintegration of the face into "noise" on the left side (they even got the side of the face right!) and then transitioning into the title perfectly expressed the theme of the book. This one's on the NEW book shelves in YA--check it out!

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