Burning by Elana K. Arnold Review

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Title: Burning
Author: Elana K. Arnold (Twitter)
Publisher: Random House Children's
Publish Date: June 11, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Ben: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It's good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. Ben is lucky: he's headed to San Diego, where he's got a track scholarship at the University of California. But his best friends, Pete and Hog Boy, don't have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447.

Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash--especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her...and for him.
Ben and Lala should never have met. Their lives are on completely separate paths, they're cultures couldn't be further from one another and yet, there's something that might just make them more like one another than they think. From their first encounter on, Lala sees that Ben was in the cards, and there is a reason he is in her life, but it's not that simple. She supposed to be married. He's supposed to go to college. Together, their relationship can't possibly work...or can it?

Burning is a new twist on the contemporary genre that challenges our own self-imposed notions of a culture vastly different than our own. With great skill this rich novel meshes the stories of two teens in the crux of huge decisions and their resulting decisions, which will ultimately also affect those around them. This is the first novel I've read from Elana Arnold, but it certainly won't be my last. The author has a remarkable gift for appropriate descriptiveness, which brings an otherwise unfamiliar world alive for me through the pages of Burning.

I've been trying to write my review for Burning for a while now, but I've had a difficult time coming up with the appropriate response to the book. On one hand, I absolutely loved this book. On the other hand, I felt as though something was lacking, and that left a bitter note in my mouth. It must be said that the author is an incredible writer. I felt as thought I was actually in Nevada throughout the book, feeling the intense heat of the desert sun and soaking in the Romani culture, of which I was previously unfamiliar. Arnold has definitely done her homework in that respect, and I learned a lot about the culture of the Romani, as well as their traditions and heritage without ever feeling as though the novel was info-dump. Furthermore, I love how very rich and elegant her prose is - when she wants it to be, and she is careful how it is applied. Switching cleanly back and forth between Ben and Lala's viewpoints, the novel transitions seamlessly throughout. However, I did have a few problems with the book, despite how much I wanted to love it without reservations. First and foremost, I felt that the "worlds-colliding" premise was a bit cliche, and that weighed on me as I got know Ben and Lala. I also had a difficult time accessing Lala's true emotions at times because she was so conflicted throughout the story. She was like a trapped animal, and there was a very claustrophobic sense within her chapters that could be viewed as a strength, but it left me feeling more stressed than anything else. Then, I had a very difficult time reconciling myself with the ending for a very long time after reading the book. While I understand why it happened now, I still felt I'd been built up throughout, only to come crashing back to Earth at the end. 

All in all, Burning was a good book, and if you're looking for a refreshing twist on contemporary novels, this is for you. Please note that while, yes, this is a love story, you should also know that above all else, it's about finding yourself and becoming true to that person. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary and light romance.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

19 comments:

  1. I think I would like this. I will have to see if my library is going to carry it. Glad to see that did enjoy it for the most part. Great review.


    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

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    1. I'd love to see your review for it, Jenea! I'm interested to see what more bloggers think.

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  2. Ooh, I do both love and hate when books garner such reactions! Despite the cliche, it sounds like it was handled pretty well, with the cultures colliding and all that.

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    1. It definitely was handled well, but I was so flabbergasted by the end that I was like uhhhhhh what now?!

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  3. This sounds like something I would love. I have this in my tbr already and I'm really looking forward to it. I love that the author wrote about the gypsy people and Romani culture, I'm not very familiar with either of them. Great review, Melissa!

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    1. I hope you give it a go, Aman. I'd love to read your take on this one :)

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  4. I have this one on my wish list but I haven't gotten around to buying it yet. It does sound a bit different from the usual tried and tested contemp - might be worth me checking out! :)

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    1. I think you might like it, Leanna! It's definitely different.

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  5. It's always a shame when a good book ultimately lacks something. I loveee the cover of this, but something prevented me from requesting it on NG and I'm glad I didn't. I doubt I'd enjoy this one as much because of the ending, so thanks for such a helpful review, Melissa! :)

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    1. I think it's a pretty good book, but the ending TOTALLY threw me. I guess it's a good thing, in hindsight, but still.

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  6. I hate it when I can't decide if I love or hate a book -.- Your review is helpful, I "ain't got no time for that"... I think I've turned into a book snob :/

    XOXOXO Nat
    I'd So Rather Be Reading
    Nutrition with Nat

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    1. haha I'm such a book snob. I try so hard not to be, but it's horrible.

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  7. I just watched something about the Romani culture on t.v., it probably wasn't as educational as it was entertaining, but they really have some strong beliefs about their girls. They marry at 18, should be untouched by a boy so much so that they drop out of school or are homeschooled, but education is secondary to becoming a wife and mother and marrying within their culture. I was so surprised. I hadn't even heard of this culture. I think this is definitely a book I'm going to pick up, if only to learn about Lala. As long as the characters are good, I can live with a few flaws.

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    1. I watched that weird TLC show where it was crazy flashy, but I don't think that's at all what most Romani are like. But it's really a good read, Heather. I think you'd like it!

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  8. This sounds interesting. I think the worlds colliding bit gets a bit overdone, but I still might give this one a try.

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    1. I think you should...it's definitely a new twist

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  9. Thanks so much for reviewing BURNING. I love the ending, but I know it's not going to make everyone happy! :) And I'm really glad you want to read my other books.

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    1. Thanks, Elana! I guess we all have our own way things should work out in our heads, huh? Can't wait to read more from you :)

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  10. I really like the fact that this seems like it's about more than just the romance. There's always room on my shelf for books that tackle a character's journey of self-discovery, and it certainly sounds like these two do that.

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