Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Synopsis: After three years in juice, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin to happen to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunsfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?
Burning is a book that in the end pleasantly surprised me. I say this because despite numerous problems, somehow I wound up liking it anyway. It’s being billed as Orange Is the New Black meets Carrie. I haven’t seen OItNB, but as it’s set in a juvenile detention center, I think it’s a fair comparison. The supernatural elements though are more reminiscent of Firestarter than Carrie. There’s a diverse cast of characters, including Angela’s best friends Issie and Cara, but they don’t have much in the way of backstories which is a shame because I think they’re quite interesting. The two main villains: Brody, a sadistic prison guard, and Dr. Gruen, a sinister scientist recently arrived at Brunesfield with a hidden agenda, are both pretty one-dimensional and seem to have walked straight out of Villainy 101. There’s some light romance between Angela and Ben, a young prison guard, but it doesn’t really go anywhere until the very end. I was actually glad of this because the idea of a romantic relationship between a guard and a prisoner, even if they are close in age, would have raised all sorts of disturbing connotations. The pacing is also a little slow and most of the action takes place in the last few chapters of the book. What kept me reading though were Angela and Jessica whose relationship reminds me of the one between Katniss and Wren in The Hunger Games. Each of them on their own are appealing characters. Angela had a horrible home life with little in the way of role models, before being incarcerated for the past two years. Her only anchor to the outside world is her younger brother Charlie who she adores. Despite the circumstances she finds herself in she makes no excuses and freely admits that she has put herself there. When little Jessica arrives in shackles and put in segregation, needless to say everyone wonders what a ten-year-old could have possibly done that was that bad. Then Dr. Gruen offers Angela something she can’t refuse. Her freedom and the opportunity to reunite with Charlie in exchange for befriending Jessica and reporting back to the malevolent doctor. The problem is, the more Angela gets to know Jessica, the more she cares about her and wants to protect her. Jessica is a young sweet girl who has suffered from too much loss in her short life. She’s now dealing with a power that is bigger than her, and she grapples with trying to control it. Not surprisingly the ending is not a happily ever after. It’s a huge cliffhanger that has some heart-wrenching moments and nicely sets things up for the next book. Danielle Rollins who also writes under the pen name of Danielle Vega has been called “YA’s answer to Stephen King” and after reading The Merciless, Seize the Night, and now Burning, I think the comparison is justified. Like King, she has a talent for combining elements of horror with intriguing characters who crawl right inside readers’ heads. Despite the flaws in Burning, I really enjoyed it and I have no qualms recommending it to fans of YA fiction who are looking for something with a bit of a bite.