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