**spoiler alert** Welcome to Guy Montag’s world, where firemen don’t put out fires, they start them. These firemen burn books, which are considered a**spoiler alert** Welcome to Guy Montag’s world, where firemen don’t put out fires, they start them. These firemen burn books, which are considered a threat to society, a threat to the government, and a threat to the status quo, where people are told what to think about by the ubiquitous TV screens. Books are the most dangerous contraband in existence. What kind of fireman would start hiding books and secretly reading them? Guy Montag, deeply affected by a strange girl who takes walks, tastes rains and rarely watches the TV screens that cover the parlor walls, begins to re-consider his profession and asks dangerous questions. When a woman is burned alive with her books, Guy is wracked with guilt—and curiosity. “There must be something in books . . .to make a woman stay in a burning house.” He begins to rescue books from the burnings, and hides them in his home. He reads them, and begins to ask too many questions. People are scared by this, and report him to the fire captain who comes to Guys house for a book burning. Guy, an unwilling host, lashes out in defense, killing the fire captain, and becomes a wanted man. He flees the city and finds like-minded people, who, fearing the danger physical books hold, read, memorize and burn books, becoming “bums on the outside, libraries inside.”
Ray Bradbury’s classic novel about book burning and totalitarian government was adapted into a graphic novel format a few years ago. This is an authorized adaptation, and holds the power and beauty of the novel. Hamilton’s artwork is striking and masterful, and in sync with the text. The wordless panels are exquisite, which show not only Hamilton’s skill but how deeply the story resonates with him. Toward the beginning of the story, when Guy meets his new neighbor, Clarisse, who helps him re-connect with the world, there is a scene where the two are talking in the rain. Clarisse explains that sometimes she just likes to tilt her head back and let the rain fall into her mouth. “It tastes like wine,” she says. Several panels later, we see Guy, in the distance, alone in the rain. Then we pan in on his head, and we see the wheels turning in his head, as he tilts his head and opens his mouth to taste the rain.
This graphic novel was marketed to older teens and adults (some reviewers guesstimate the interest level to be grades 10 and up) but I think it will resonate with many younger teens, and even some pre-teens, particularly those who enjoy dystopian science fiction. People interested in this genre tend to question the status quo, fear the loss of privacy, personal freedom and intellectual freedom. Intellectually curious young teens will devour this amazing graphic novel, but it may take some time for it to start flying off the shelves. So. . . if a teen walks into the library, loved Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver—hand them Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation. Chances are they’ll also want to check out the novel version after they’ve finished the graphic novel!
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Subjects: Book burning, Totalitarianism, Dystopia, Conformity, Intellectual Freedom, Personal Freedom, Knowledge, Books
Reading level/Interest level: Grades 7 & up
Read-alikes: Collins’ Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mockingjay Roth’s Divergent Lowry’s The Giver Orwell’s 1984 Huxley’s Brave New World...more