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The Burn Journals

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  7,025 ratings  ·  852 reviews
I don’t want to get out of bed.
I’m so stupid.
I did so many things wrong.
I don’t know what to do.
I’m going to be in so much trouble.
What am I going to do?
I’m completely screwed.

In 1991, fourteen-year-old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match.

He suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body and spent the next year
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Vintage (first published September 14th 2004)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,025 ratings  ·  852 reviews

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Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
I had heard nothing but good reviews of this book. It's a memoir about a young boy who attempted suicide by burning and his recovery. While an interesting and honest read by turns, I felt only half of the story was being told. Perhaps that's all the author was dealing with at the time - or at the time of the writing. In either case, I felt that the emotional and psychological aspects of this journey were missing. That really left me flat. Not that I expected the answer to life's big questions, b ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teens/fans of memoir
At age fourteen Brent Runyon came home from a bad day at school, doused himself with gasoline, and lit a match. Immediately, he regretted his painful suicide attempt. By the time help came he had already suffered second and third degree burns to 85% of his body. The stuff of dark fiction? No, the memoir of a young man whose story is as compelling as it is horrifying. Though Brent survived, the following months were undoutbedly the most painful of his life. He went through skin grafts, burn treat ...more
Aug 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
FIRST - this book should not be placed in the Young Adult section. I know that it's based on when he was a teen but it's got so much talk about sex, drugs and every other word seems like a cuss word. Just doesn't seem teen appropriate for me. Plus I don't think a teenager would be able to understand or connect with the book and it's subject matters.

This book was very helpful on giving insight on what it's like for people who have had something happened to them or feel out of the ordinary. I had
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book a lot, it was written as though you were inside the mind of Brent, battling these dark thoughts and trying to figure himself out. The book is raw and honest, not leaving anything out. It started tragically but ended beautifully. I really enjoyed this book.
Carrie Solinger
Oct 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is a poignant memoir by a man who relates his tale of his decision to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. I had high expectations for this book. Prior to reading, I had the impression that this would be a seminal work for others - as well as family and friends who know someone - suffering from depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal tendencies. I thought this narrative would provide 1) personal insights as to the thoughts and motivations for the author’s actions, and 2) that while ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was raw and filled with truth. I was in tears and I laughed out loud and I related this young man. Please read this book.
I'm not a child psychologist so I don't always understand why teens gravitate towards books that are depressing, full of angst, always about incredible situations that most people don't find themselves in. Perhaps they need to read a story that is worse than their own perceived drama. I've worked with teenagers long enough to know that they feel their problems are the biggest and worst of anyone they know. They all worry about being popular and being picked on. They all worry that their best fr ...more
Hanna Noonan
I think the authors purpose of writing this story is to help explain what stressed teens go through or how suicide can be a big deal towards teens. to inform the readers about suicide awareness, or even persuade them into knowing that maybe we can do things to stop suicidal thoughts towards themselves. Everyone has their own purpose of doing things. And this Author chose to express is in his book.
The theme I got from the book when reading it was that accepting who you are is part of growing up
aoi aka
Feb 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I'm not sure what I was expecting out of this book. I certainly didn't expect an adult author to write this memoir of his suicide attempt as if he were still a teenager.

And by that I don't mean his thoughts and feelings at the time of the attempt and the recovery through the burn unit and therapy. The mind of a teenager is a frightening thing with their selfishness and contempt for others, including family. It's more about how every phase of his recovery felt incomplete. Even the book's ending f
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars rounded down.

The subject matter is sad and I feel that it's not right to criticize the "plot", as it is Runyon's life.
Some stylistic devices could have been used better though. I had trouble with the choppy one-line dialogue. Often lost track of who was speaking, and had to reread much of the conversational material. Also, I didn't like the way Runyon talked about women. It was often vulgar and unnecessary, and I just wasn't comfortable with it.
Other than those flaws, Runyon gives read
Marie Hockley
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good book which shows insight into the mind of a teenage male who is battling depression and anxiety. It was very sad to see how helpless and lonely he felt at the time of his suicide attempt. His journey through recovery was interesting and informative. The author's notes at the end of the book put the magnitude of this disease in perspective. This book will stay with me for awhile as it reminds me that we never really know how someone is doing and even the "jokers" have very dark days.
Feb 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
MAN, I did not like this book. I know the author went through an incredible amount of suffering (after setting himself on fire when he was 14), but instead of offering insight into the mindset of a depressed, impetuous teenager, and learning why he did it and what he learned from it, the book just felt like a reminder into what little sh*ts teenage boys can be. I found the character of Teen Runyon to be so incredibly off-putting (it's written in the first person, so there's no escaping his nonst ...more
Johnny King
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel like a 4 may be generous for a rating. I enjoyed the story, as morbid as that sounds, but the ending, man, I didn't like it.
This is the true story of Brent Runyon’s suicide attempt and recovery from the same. Brent is in 8th grade when he decides that he’s going to kill himself. This isn’t the first time he’s decided this either, but all of his other suicide attempts have failed. He’s tried slitting his wrists several times, but in each case didn’t make the cuts deep enough. He’s also tried overdosing on Advil, but 20 pills only made him sleepy. If you ask him why he wanted to die, he can’t even really explain it. He ...more
Austin Dixon
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book rocked me to my core.
Seeing another human being,
torn and shredded from the inside out,
living the hell I had imagined myself in.

I would like to give a brief message to anyone who
has/contemplated attempting suicide -

It's not worth it.
You may feel like it'll end your pain,
but the people you leave behind will
live your pain everyday of the rest of
their lives. In our school, we recently
had a student commit suicide.. It was
absolutely devastating to everyone in the
student body.

Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
So hard to review.....

This is a true story so I tried so very hard to feel for brent. Brent set himself on fire at 14 and suffered 85% burns. I dont know what I was hoping to get from this, but anger wasnt it.

Brent set himself on fire at 14 as a suicide attempt (his 3rd attempt). I was expecting emotional torment followed by something like inspirational ending. What I got was a boy who had no idea why he set himself on fire but feels as though he was owed something for it.

He showed NO regret nor
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a story

I don't know what to say really. This is the story of a 7th grader ( I think, I know it was middle school) who sets himself on fire. As always the question is why? ..did he really get better? I felt cheated at the end of the story. I think that this book has promise, and I could relate to a lot of the feelings and emotions.
Chelsea Winters
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon is a memoir of a year in the author's life, as a teenager, after attempting suicide by setting himself on fire. It begins just before the attempt, and continues on throughout the year during his recovery: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This novel is overwhelming in its content. It is raw, and real, and you find yourself wanting to set it aside because of its subject matter, while simultaneously needing to continue.

The story is compelling, while the main
Madalena Elshoff
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I appreciate Brent Runyon's honesty in this piece that takes us through his journey of depression and his horrific suicide attempt. There are not enough books out there that deal with teenage depression. And usually not male teenagers either. Brent's resilience and his family's is incredible.

The reason why I gave this a 3 was only because of the writing style which uses a lot of dialogue and at times gets a little mundane retelling some of the day-by-day events. But I guess that's why he titles
May 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book was so messed up.

I mean, the story itself was just crazy. Brent Runyon was 14 years old when he doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire. I have no idea why anyone would choose such a hideous death, but Runyon had apparently attempted suicide before and was unsuccessful. He thought lighting himself on fire would do the job.

Did I mention this is nonfiction? The story was written by an adult Runyon, who survived the attempted suicide-by-fire as well. But it was written from t
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
Hey presto! A novel that actually made me feel something for a situation described through text for the first time in months!

Often my choices in subject matter tend to be a bit morbid and depressing and long-ago the shock-value of anything even highly grotesque or gruesome or heart-wrenching seemed to have worn off on me. But 'The Burn Journals' finally broke that streak.

When Runyon describes the way in which (view spoiler)
Emily Just Emily*~*
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-s
Not for the faint of heart.
Ashley Swiggum
This book is by far one of the best books I have ever read. This book is about Brent, a young boy who is in the 8th grade. He tried to commit suicide by soaking his bathrobe in gasoline and setting it on fire with a match. His brother is the one who found him on fire and called 911. Brent had 2nd and 3rd degree over 85% of his body and was in a lot of pain. Over a span of time he had so many surgery to fix his skin that had been burned really badly, but he also went through physical therapy for ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
The Burn Journals is about Brent Runyon, who is 14 years old. He's popular, funny, and smart. But all of that is about to quickly change for him. During gym class, Brent thought it would be funny to light a shirt on fire. He does so, but soon the flame becomes to large to control. Out of impulse, Brent throws the shirt into a gym locker and he joins the rest of the gym class. The school gets the police into the business, and in fear Brent knows he's going to be in trouble, so he decides he's goi ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was obviously very sad at the start but the tone got more positive later on. It is amazing that Brent could even manage to write this book at all. Some of the humor in this book is very dark and offensive but that doesn't change the fact that it is still pretty funny.
Evan Bautch
Sep 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Burn journals by Brent Runyon auto biography

The burn journals was a great book, it showed me that reading is actually nice. Before this book I hated reading and got put into a reading class at school. My English teacher and my reading teacher were talking about this and it caught my attention. This book is about a young boy who is extremely sad and tries to attempt many suicides but he would either stand up before he would pass out or he wouldn’t cut himself deep enough. One day his friends had
Hallei Morales
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book talks about serious issues that goes through some teenagers minds daily. It starts with 14 year old Brent Runyon struggling to get out of bed to get ready for the day. Normal teenager tasks. But as the book progresses, into the next few pages he starts having suicidal thoughts. It seems like it's a normal occurrence for him. Brent was kind of like the class clown. He didn't really care about many things, and whether he knew it or not he was severely depressed. An incident happened at s ...more
Sep 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to stephanie by: Abby Johnson

i read this pretty quickly. it flows the way you would expect a YA book to, in this category, which is not supposed to demean the genre, but just saying it flows a little easier.

there were a lot of things i wanted more of. i wanted more of dr. rubenstein. of the doctors after. of more time back in school. how it felt to graduate. if he still has scars. etc. etc.

it was written though, in the first person, when he was 14. i think the best thing was how realistic the burn un
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Aiossa's Senior 5...: Nico Sirridges Book Review 1 4 Sep 30, 2012 03:24PM  

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Brent Runyon was 14 years old when he set himself on fire. His first book, The Burn Journals, is a memoir of his suicide survival. He is a contributor to public radio's This American Life, and lives on Cape Cod, where he works as a newspaper reporter. His third book, Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers, written with longtime collaborator Christina Egloff, is in bookstores now.

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
36 likes · 13 comments
“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.” 126 likes
“Before everything, I used to do this thing when I was upset-I used to take all my feelings and push them down inside me. It was like they were garbage and I was compacting it to get more in. I felt like I could keep pushing all my feelings down into my socks and I wouldn't have to worry about them. I don't think I do that anymore.” 26 likes
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