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Book Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

“I'm just a girl."

"It is tragic how well you have been taught to say that with sadness rather than triumph.”

About a week ago I was casting around for an audio book to listen to during a long walk I wanted to take. Burn by Patrick Ness was available on Overdrive, and since I’ve enjoyed many of his other books I decided to give this one a try. I’m glad I did! Ness's books are always beautifully written. They break your heart a bit, and make you feel things intensely, and look at the world in slightly different ways. This one was no exception. 

BurnBurn is a young adult novel set in Washington state during the 1950s. There are several people who tell the story, but the main character (for me) is Sarah Dewhurst, who lives with her father on his farm outside of a small town. Since she is of mixed heritage, she doesn’t have many friends—none, actually, except for her neighbor Jason, who is similarly outcast. Being poor, Sarah’s father has to hire a dragon to clear a new field for him, and this is when Sarah’s world starts to change. There is also Malcom, a boy from a cult called The Believers, which wants to clear the world of people for the dragons, and an FBI investigator, Agent Woolf, who is trying to track down Malcolm with her partner, as she’s figured out he’s going to kill someone. And Kazimir, the dragon himself, who, as a Russian Blue, evokes even more suspicion than the usual red dragons do, what with the Cold War and Russia planning on launching a satellite soon.

I enjoyed much of this story. I had no idea where it would go, as what seemed to be the likely climax happened only halfway through the book. But I loved where it went. The story offers much to think about regarding concepts like race, prejudice, religiosity, and choice.

My complaint is that it really felt too short. I think it needed about 20% more story, especially at the end. It also has quite a bit of violence, which seemed gratuitous for a young adult novel.

But it was a fun companion on several runs and walks.

Book #2 of my Summer Reading Challenge.

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