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Summary: High school isn’t what Cameron Grady expected. In fact, it’s worse. His one friend (Steve) deserted him when the Redcoats (the jocks) decided that Cameron would be their favorite target. As the bullying continued, Cameron felt more and more isolated. Then the anger set in, and he started thinking about how he would get even. When it all exploded, and the adults realized what had been happening, it was too late. Lives were changed, lives were ruined. Now where did Cameron fit in? Although written at an elementary level, this is a Young Adult novel. It covers themes of bullies, victims, violence, and redemption.
Type of Reading: independent reading, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 12 and up; read yourself: 10 and up
Interest Level: 10 and up
Reading Level: 4
Age of Child: Reviewed by a student at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.
Young Reader Reaction: I picked the book because I read the back and I thought it sounded good. After the first chapter, I thought it was going to be a very good book, and it was. I liked the book because it had a lot of action, drama, and suspense. There was never a boring part in the book. I learned that if someone is bullying or harassing you, tell someone and make them do something about it. Don't take matters into your own hands.
Adult Reader Reaction: Even though I had a sense of where the story was going, I felt compelled to turn the pages all the same. The author spins the concepts of bullies and victims on their head. Reading Burn was like watching a really good Law & Order episode: visual, thought-provoking, and a little bit scary. There is really only one loose end, and that’s Cameron’s attraction to fire. Was it an outgrowth of the bullying or was it always part of his psyche?
Pros: Teens — particularly middle school students — will feel as though they are rubbing shoulders in Cameron’s crowded school hallway. They will connect with this story and want to talk about it with their friends. Student reviewer: It has a good lesson. Even if someone is harassing you, don't do something you'll regret or get you in major trouble. It won't help anyone and it could get you in more trouble than you already were.
Cons: This is truly a contemporary story, with incredibly realistic events. Although she is not gory or excessive, there are graphic descriptions of a number of events (bullying, arson).
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is highly recommended for pre-teens preparing to enter high school. Student reviewer: Buy. It is a very good book, and I liked it, but I don't think it's okay for younger kids. I like the suspense and drama, but it might be too violent.
Educational Themes: Burn gives you a lot to explore and talk about, particularly if you are a teacher, parent, or counselor working with teens. Each of the main characters has many facets, and there is no simple description of how they became who they are. Topics include bullying, homosexuality, friendship, conflict resolution, parental relationships, child abuse, trust, social responsibility, and psychoses (pyromania), among others.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 4.0. The publisher donated a copy of this book to the Reading Tub, Inc. This is an unsolicited donation.
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, coming of age, school, self worth, friendship, family, contemporary, realistic fiction
Date(s) Reviewed: October 2008, November 2009
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