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The Arsonist

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,330 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they’ll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen.

Pepper Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant wi
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Dial Books
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Lily Tuthill As someone who suffers from a seizure disorder, this aspect of the book intrigued me. The part where Pepper mentions it feels as if his ‘brain is fill…moreAs someone who suffers from a seizure disorder, this aspect of the book intrigued me. The part where Pepper mentions it feels as if his ‘brain is filled with static’ was interesting, as it is like something I have felt myself, and made me wonder if the author herself has ever suffered from a seizure. However, more of the emotional impact of seizures was never discussed, I feel this topic was extremely underdeveloped and forgotten until it benefitted the plot, which is unfortunate. The actually scene at the end where he falls into the pool from his seizure is accurate because tasks such as walking down stairs, etc. can be dangerous when you’re at risk of seizure, and accidents such as these are often what makes everyday living more dangerous. I hope this answered some of your questions.(less)

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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,330 ratings  ·  283 reviews

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Emily May
“We sound like really dumb comic book characters,” I said. “The cabbage and the pepper, out to solve an epic mystery.”

What a seriously bizarre and random book.

I was a huge fan of Oakes's debut - The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly - a couple of years back, and I was really excited to get my hands on her second YA novel, but The Arsonist was SO WEIRD. I love books that do something different, but it was almost like this book was trying too hard to be quirky.

How can I even explain? Well... it's a st
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and has some good twists and turns. Love how the story came together throughout. Was a little slow for about the first half but overall it was entertaining.

Overall, I good mystery and it has diary entries! I love books with letters, diary or journal entries. Adds so much to a story!
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[NOTE: This review is based on an Advanced Reading Copy and contains no deliberate spoilers.]

From now on, any time I hear somebody claim that YA is not complex, thoughtful or literary I am going to smack them about the head and shoulders with a copy of this book.

THE ARSONIST is literary in all the best senses of the word. Smart, searching, inventive, beautifully written and characterized, funny (as in genuinely, unexpectedly witty and sometimes straight-up hilarious, especially the sections nar
Mónica BQ
Aug 31, 2015 rated it did not like it

I am an indisputable fan of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly as is evidenced by my review of it.

But, The Arsonist is, well, it's caca.

I have no other way of describing it. I can't even point the genre in which this book belongs to. The book is convoluted, scattered, idiotic and simply plain boorish.
2.5 stars

What an odd book. Usually I'm a fan of eccentric titles but unfortunately I had to suspend too much disbelief to really enjoy & absorb the story. We are introduced to 3 individuals who, on the surface, seem to have nothing in common. We have: Molly, who's father is currently on death row awaiting execution for the murder of six people. She is also holding onto the hope that she mother will reappear after her disappearance years ago, yet there is no evidence that this will ever happen,
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review was originally posted at Dual Reads

ARC received for an honest review.

I went into The Arsonist pretty much blind. All I knew was that it was about a girl whose father was imprisoned for arson. I knew nothing of Ava's viewpoint or Pepper's or just how emotionally intense this book would wind up being.

The Arsonist is the sort of book that consumes you. The difference from first page to last wasn't just character growth - I feel different too. And I love when a book can do that. This w
Hollie (Hollieblog)

This book. Oh my gosh. After I finished the final page, I closed the book slowly and just sat there staring out of my window. I cannot believe that there are books that I've been waiting for for months, sat on my TBR pile physically and on Goodreads, and The Arsonist hasn't been on any of them. Not even that, but I didn't know it existed until I saw it on a table at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) and all I had to do was sign up to a newslette
Eve Messenger
Great writing but an overwrought plot. The story takes place in the present day, mainly in the California town of Monterey. Pepper is a very endearing Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy and a service dog. Molly has anger management issues and lives with her aunt and unstable cousin Margaret after her mother's suicide and father's imprisonment for arson. Pepper's POV is conveyed through essays to his teacher, Molly's through a confessional of sorts to her friend Pepper, and then there's Ava, whose s ...more
I have been waiting what feels like forever to read this book. Last year I fell head over heels for The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly and immediately added The Arsonist to by TBR. I was super lucky to get my hands on an ARC of this at YALC and was thrilled as it wasn’t a book I was expecting to see there! Nevertheless, I have finally read it and I was absolutely blown away by how gorgeous it was.

The Arsonist was nothing like I expected it to be. I’ll be honest and say that I hadn’t really read the b
Aj Sterkel
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Stephanie Oakes’s first book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is one of my favorite fictional cult books. I’ve read a lot of cult novels, so that’s not faint praise. It’s a seriously good book. That’s why I had high hopes for The Arsonist.

After I finished it, I was conflicted!

The Arsonist follows the lives of three teenagers. One of them became a mystery, and the other two are trying to find out what happened to her. Ava Dreyman was an East German girl whose protest against the Berlin Wall led to
Wendy Darling
I CAN'T WAIT. ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Through a series of circumstances, two California teens become involved with solving a mystery that happened in 1989 in Cold War East Germany. I liked the characters and the mystery, but thought the story bogged down at the half way point. I also wanted to know more about Molly's dad and why he committed the crimes. With a bit more editing, this could've been an even better book. ...more
Brooke H
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
☼Book her,   Danno☼
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
~ review copy provided

I was intrigued but uncertain about THE ARSONIST so I trotted off to the library to get Stephanie Oakes' other book, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY. MINNOW blew me away with it's great characters, superb writing, and unique story. I plowed through that book, but not before choosing this new one.

THE ARSONIST did not disappoint. In fact, it was even better. With MINNOW you saw the world from one perspective. In THE ARSONISTS three very different voices are present and they ar
Leah (Jane Speare)
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Man. That was unexpectedly brilliant.


"It was a pleasure to burn." A chilling, magnetic story, I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction. I don't think I've read anything like this before, but the historical style reminded me of Julie Berry. You will find little romance within these pages. There is mystery, friendship, and of course, arson in many forms. This book is more than its beautiful cover hints at, I can't even begin to explain it. The Arsonist is one of my favorite reads this year
Frances Bahr
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Arsonist might be the best book I've read in 2016. The story takes place in two settings, Monterey, California, in the present, and East Berlin before the fall of the wall. The protagonists are two daughters desperately looking for their mothers and struggling to understand how their lives intersect. Oakes writes prose with a stylistic flair I've not seen before. You really must add The Arsonist to your reading list! ...more
Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Books)
I want to tell you right off the bat that this review will not come close to doing this book justice. I want to tell you all how amazing and awesome this book is in a coherent way that really conveys the perfection of this book. But I am going to fail.

This book is amazing and awesome-- wait, I already said that. Okay, let me try again. This book is about so much more than I thought it would be about. I thought I was getting a story about a serial arsonist-- and it WAS about that-- but it was abo
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
If you think the cover is stunning, what until you read the book! Part contemporary, part historical (1980s Berlin), part mystery, part's hard to categorize this story, but the parts all weave into an utterly compelling read. I'm a huge fan of everything A.S. King writes as well as Markus Zusak's I am the Messenger, and would place The Arsonist on a par with those books. ...more
I am thinking about the first words of another book.
It was a pleasure to burn.
More than anything, it was a pleasure to live.

I am utterly SHOCKED that no one talks about this book!!! Please, please go out and read it! It's one of the most unique YA books I've ever read, and I mean this in every possible way.

First of all, it is not at all what I was expecting it to be. I typically don't read very much of the synopses of thrillers because I don't want to spoil myself, so my expectations going i
Tiffany Marin
Molly Mavity is definitely not your average teenage girl. Her father is on death row for murder, with his execution date steadily approaching. She steadfastly believes that her mother is alive, despite all evidence to the contrary and the fact that she's the only one who believes. She's waiting for the day they'll be reunited. Pepper Yusef is not your typical woman teenage boy. He is an epileptic immigrant from Kuwait who has no idea how to talk to girls and has the most useless seizure dog ever ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel right here, is a literary accomplishment for YA. The Arsonist took me through a whirlwind of emotions and memories, storytelling not one or even two young adults lives. Visits to the past and the present, memories and first hand accounts - the point of view from each character was unique. I had to push myself to finish the book because I didn't want it to end. It was very odd some moments but I appreciate the overall platonic relationship through and through the book - I hate it when ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book that a wide variety of ages would enjoy. It is 493 pages that I plowed through!
Marzy Nighthunter
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved it, but umm Molly wasn't very likeable lol ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, high-quality novel. Characters I immediately connected with, farked-up pasts, and uncertain futures. And the mystery, of course. An extraordinary read.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Review to come.
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Wow... I haven't been so disappointed in a book in a while. I loved this author's debut book (The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly) and have been anticipating her next novel for about two years now. When the summary and cover were released I was even more excited. The characters sounded interesting and unique. I love non-chronological storytelling. I was counting down the days to this book's release.

Maybe I set it up so that it couldn't meet my expectations. But I don't think so. One of the frustratin
Kathleen Dixon
It's interesting when you read a blurb and the first paragraph means nothing to you. How often have I not read further? The Goodreads blurb for this book cites these two - Code Name Verity, and I Am the Messenger, neither of which I have read (nor, at this stage, have I marked them as to-read, although I will undoubtedly read the Markus Zusak as I have already enjoyed 2 of his novels enormously, and quite likely I shall add Elizabeth E. Wein as well). However, I didn't read this book because I r ...more
Oakes does not disappoint in her second novel. I was worried she would fall victim to the sophomore slump because I found The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly enthralling, but Oakes delivers. I know some reviewers faulted her for the serendipitous connections (life is happenstance, is it not?), but I had no problem suspending my disbelief.

I had to actually remind myself more than once that this was fiction and Ava Dreyman really does not exist. Oakes weaves three voices/stories together to create a tal
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
what i loved the most about this book is that it featured a male and a female character together and did not force the book into any sort of romance. it was just two teens trying to find their way through this sort of "quest" they had been sent on together and dealing with their own personal struggles. Ava's diary entries sent a course of adrenaline just when it was needed most. There was one which bothered me through the book. Pepper's character's actual name is Ibrahim and he chose Pepper as a ...more
John Wood
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though this book claims to be YA, it definitely appeals to OA too, perhaps a new genre, YOA should be created. From Berlin shortly before the fall of the wall, to burning Iraqi oil fields to California it explores many different historic and ethnic viewpoints. Perhaps the title should be "The Arsonists" because there are resistance fighters setting fires in Berlin, the story of Pepper's birth amid flaming oil fields and Molly's father on death row for setting fires. Readers are kept in suspense ...more
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AHS English 10: Recomendation 1 6 Oct 24, 2017 08:22AM  

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Stephanie Oakes is a teacher and YA author from Washington State. Her debut novel, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY (Dial/Penguin, June 9, 2015), about a girl who escapes from a religious commune only to find herself at the center of a murder investigation, is based on the Grimm fairy tale, "The Handless Maiden."

THE ARSONIST, her second YA mystery through Dial/Penguin, is scheduled for publication in

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