Well, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as bWell, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as books. This story of the Chinese-American son of a mail order bride who learns of his otherness from cruel neighborhood kids and begins to resent the source of his difference, his mother, was heartbreaking, poignant, and familiar. It reminded me of all the times my brother and I would refuse to eat with chopsticks or speak Korean, how we demanded nasty Lunchables instead of kimbap, the DELICIOUS Korean version of sushi that was packed in our lunches.
When Jack demands that his mother speak only English, she says,
“If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,’ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.
These two lines sum up why so many immigrants cling to their native tongue despite the protestations of their non-immigrant children.
Thanks to Flannery and Leanne for bringing this story to my attention. It's definitely worth the few minutes it'll take to read. Just be sure to have tissues handy....more
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." -Confucius
"Oh, here go hell come." -Calvin Tran
I love revenge stories. Whether it's Edmond"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." -Confucius
"Oh, here go hell come." -Calvin Tran
I love revenge stories. Whether it's Edmond Dantes in Count of Monte Cristo or Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, there's just something about characters who say, No. Not anymore. Not again.
In Burn for Burn, we meet three characters -- a princess, a basket case, a brain. The chapters alternate between their points of view as we discover how they end up on a collision course of revenge. The book opens on Mary Zane, who is on the ferry to Jar Island, returning home after an extended, self-imposed absence. Mary's story is the most mysterious. Not only does she have secrets, but her secrets have secrets. Lillia Cho is pretty and popular, a girl used to getting what she wants though her wealthy family ensures she doesn't want for much. However, none of that prevents her from getting what she doesn't want. Kat DeBrassio is a townie, a local determined to get off Jar Island after years of rumors reducing her reputation to trash. She's had to deal with tougher problems though, like losing her mother, so these rumors -- and the source of them -- don't get to her. Until they do. Each girl is set off by events to act, to no longer be passive recipients of other people's shit.
From the beginning, as "the mist breaks into lace" and Jar Island is unveiled, it had my attention. This novel is, for lack of a better word, delicious. Revenge is so sweet. ...But there's a reason why Confucius has been around since Before Christ. What happens after the wheels have been set in motion and you discover you didn't have the whole story? Or that your target changed for the better? Or even if the source of your humiliation is as bad as you think, how low do you go? There are so many shifting layers to this story. A huge part of that is due to the well-drawn supporting characters. The line between friend and foe, which seems so sharply drawn at first, becomes blurry as we learn more about the characters, and I found my sympathies ping-ponging from side to side.
Mary, Lillia, and Kat each have their own motivations and are determined to mete out consequences as they see fit. It cracked me up when Kat got stuck in the bureaucracy of it all though.
"As amped as I am about doing this, it's sort of annoying. I mean, basically my whole night is going to be spent doing this crap."
Zombies have shown that there are really only two certain things in life: taxes and bureaucracy. There aren't any zombies in this story, but there is a paranormal element. I hesitate to mention it because the minute people hear that word, it's either an immediate turn on or turn off, and really, it's just one layer of this multi-layered story. Even better, not one of those layers is a love triangle. There is love, but in this book (the first of a planned trilogy), friendships are the most explored relationships. Considering this book was written by two best friends in Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, I'm not surprised. I've never read a Siobhan Vivian book, though I plan to now, but I read Jenny Han's Summer Series last year. While I liked it, the main character felt a little young. That is not an issue in Burn for Burn. I was rubbing my hands together after the first few chapters.
Bonus points: Non-stereotypical minority main character! Lower-middle class characters. Rally girls, which reminded me of Friday Night Lights. That gorgeous cover, which depicts the characters pretty accurately.
I was surprised by how much I liked Burn for Burn. It hit the right notes of friendship, revenge, and anticipation, and I just sunk my teeth into it. The writing between Han and Vivian is seamless. I imagine it was perfected over years of sending texts and emails back and forth as only BFFs can. As I said immediately after I finished the book, I hope Han and Vivian gave each other one of these because they deserve it:
I'm going to be a bit of a figure skating judge on my rating because you can't give the first performance a perfect score, especially when you know the second one can be even better. Overall, this was a very exciting start to a trilogy and Book 2 is going on my "frenzied anticipation" list.
Rating: 4/5 stars.
I received this copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. Just as an aside, when my grandmother tasted the Thanksgiving turkey I had spent hours slaving over, she said, "It's not as good as last year's (catered) turkey." When I looked over at my mother, she said, "Well, she's right. And you gained some weight, didn't you?" Being honest is embedded, for better or for worse, in my genetic code.
I just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean graI just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean grandma, a cell phone, and a 911 operator.**
I've made some successful forays into fantasy recently (Finnikin of the Rock, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Seraphina), but as a genre, two elements repel me: tedious world-building and nonsensical names. The latter reason is why, despite some glowing reviews, I can't even consider a Rachel Vincent novel. Angelfall, a self-published dystopian fantasy about a 17-year-old girl named Penryn, looked like a potential disaster. However, it was only a $0.99 potential disaster, so I decided to risk it and buy it for my Kindle.
I'm so glad I did.
Angelfall throws you into San Francisco 6 weeks after angels descended and attacked. All we know is that the angel Gabriel was gunned down, unleashing an angel apocalypse all over the world. Penryn, named after an exit off Interstate 80 by her mentally unstable mom, is trying to survive in this new world order, with angels up top and humans trying to fill whatever space they can underneath, no matter the cost to themselves. It's human nature in its basest form -- survival of the fittest, kill or be killed. Penryn can fend for herself. Her paranoid schizophrenic mother made sure of this, enrolling her daughter in self-defense classes from an early age. However, Penryn isn't just fending for herself. She's caring for her handicapped younger sister, Paige. Except Paige gets taken by an angel while Penryn is defending another angel from certain death. Now Penryn must trust this injured angel, Raffe, to take her to the guarded angel aerie to find her sister.
And that's just the beginning.
Going back to my two fantasy dealbreakers, there is no tedious world-building -- some would say that there isn't enough world-building, or world-explaining, but that works for me. I'd prefer to know less, at least initially. Secondly, Penryn's name fits her completely. This isn't a cool name; this is a name chosen because it was there. Like her child.
Angels were another potential stumbling block because I consider myself devoutly agnostic. I don't mind religion if it's intrinsic to the story and the characters, like in Sorta Like a Rock Star. I just don't like being preached to.
Oh, is this unrelated? SO ARE MY REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS TO THE REPUBLICAN AGENDA.
Imagine my delight in finding out Raffe, the angel, was agnostic! And that wasn't even the turning point for me because I was already invested in the story. I loved the dynamic between our two feisty leads, Penryn and Raffe. I really loved what happened when Penryn pulled out her Ally McBeal "I am a trained kickboxer" card and punched a man twice her size, fully expecting all the people around her to swoop in and stop the fight before any harm came to her. Not in this new reality. This is the kind of detail I love. It shows how societal norms have changed, that a man fighting a woman who challenges him isn't the end all because they've seen the end all.
This is a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed -- so much so that after finishing it on Christmas, I gifted it to 5 friends that night. (And still only spent $5!) This is a quality story with quality characters written by a very qualified author. I highly recommend it.
**My original review posted on Dec. 25, 2011. Saved per Shirley Marr's request.
Review to come. Too much wine tonight. And Bailey's. And, okay, a little Johnnie Walker Blue earlier. What can I say, Christmas started with Grandma accidentally dialing 911 and yelling in Korean before hanging up. It's been a long day.
This is a really sweet book. It skews toward the younger end of the YA spectrum, with its first kisses and stolen glances, but there's a charm and innThis is a really sweet book. It skews toward the younger end of the YA spectrum, with its first kisses and stolen glances, but there's a charm and innocence to it that's really refreshing. It's hard to believe that Belly, the narrator of this book, is the same age as Frankie Spinelli, the narrator of the excellent Saving Francesca. It’s like comparing the high school experience of Grease to that of My So-Called Life -- but the light, airy tone of this book is perfect for its summer setting.
This book reminds me of a more grown up version of The Baby-Sitter’s Club Summer Specials that I used to read as a kid. Jenny Han nails the setting perfectly. You can picture the weathered beach house and the smells and sounds of the beach. Belly is just a bit too childlike for me. Her voice seems the same whether it is in the present (at 15 years old) or in flashbacks (at 10 years old). Nonetheless, this is a great book to get you in the summer mindset.