Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Burn Baby Burn” as Want to Read:
Burn Baby Burn
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Burn Baby Burn

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,264 ratings  ·  816 reviews
Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous year 1977 in New York.

After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.

Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the da
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Candlewick Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Burn Baby Burn, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Monica Davis There is discussion about sex and virginity, but no sex scenes. Only kissing!

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,264 ratings  ·  816 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Burn Baby Burn
jv poore
The air is hot and even heavier than it should be in the summer of 1977. Heat seems to emanate from the streets of New York City. The collective tension of the people is palpable. The threat of the serial killer known as ‘Son of Sam’ hangs over everyone’s head.

Nora Lopez tries to ignore the utter madness of the outside world. She wants only to stick to the routine that’s yielded the best results for the latter part of her seventeen years. Working at Salerno’s deli, hanging with her best bud, Ka

Burn Baby Burn promises to be not just any young-adult tale. No, this one is set against New York’s worst summer: 1977, when Son of Sam was on a killing spree. It’s an exciting angle--except it takes a back seat to other big issues.

Medina’s goal was to bring this terrifying time to vivid life by depicting likable teen narrator Nora Lopez living amidst this chaos (with some notable adjustments to her normal routine to ensure her safety). It’s unfortunate, therefore, that the Son
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it

( Poem sent to the New York Daily News by Son of Sam)


I was close to Nora López's age in 1977, though tucked away as I was in a Pennsylvania suburb, the Son of Sam murders seemed a world away. For 17-year-old Queens resident, Nora, the shootings might easily be happening on the very street where she lives. And, considering the kill
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Latina main character, troubled family, romance, feminist movement, disco, 70s New York, a serial killer, a blackout, fires.

This is a perfectly fine YA novel that hits all the right buttons and checks all the right boxes and teaches all the right lessons (hence, I guess, 4 starred reviews in major publications). The family part was probably the most interesting to me.

However, this is not the kind of book that I would ever be compelled to read again. No aspect of it was truly memorable
Book Riot Community
I try not to read books too ahead of their publishing date because then I’m shouting at people that they have to read a book that they have to wait to read BUT this book had too many boxes checked off for me that I couldn’t wait. I tried and failed, especially after doing the just-one-page because I ended up not being able to stop turning the pages. I was hooked from the beginning with Nora, a high school senior about to graduate, living in New York during the summer of Sam (1977). And while the ...more
I'm not usually a fan of New York novels. I think for the most part they reach a really niche market. Medina, though, takes this in a place that made me really invested, as it's about the historical summer of 1977 when the city was burning and a serial killer named Son of Sam is on the loose. Nora, our narrator, is Latina, and her best friend is a white girl. Both of them are deeply invested in feminism, but what Medina does is offer a look at the ways feminism isn't necessarily inclusive, eithe ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
When I heard of this book, I was very eager to read it. Hey, I was around during this time, 1977, and living in Philadelphia, and remember the news and the terrifying environment created by the Son of Sam murders. I wanted to read how author Meg Medina covered that time period.

As I started this book, I was caught realizing the main character, Nora Lopez, was a teenage girl of seventeen, almost eighteen, and Nora was realizing some very hard truths. My first reaction was "oh, great, a young adult
Read for the second time. Enjoyed it even more this go around. While I found the historical setting interesting, what I enjoyed most were the characters--complex and honest.
Kate (GirlReading)
Going into this, I wasn't sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. The thriller element wasn't as stone as I'd hoped it would be but that ended up not to matter. It was the characters, their relationships, their private lives and uncertainty of it all that had me totally hooked. I really enjoy each character and thought the different levels of relationships portrayed throughout were so interesting to follow and to be a part of. I loved the scope of different topics this book discussed ...more
I liked this book. It takes place in New York during 1977: Son of Sam is killing innocent couples; a power outage leads to looting and rioting; New York City faced a record number of homicides. This is the year Nora graduates and figures out what to do with her life.

Her mother gets laid off and her brother, Hector, is getting mixed up in all the wrong things. Nora is expected to pick up more shifts at the store where she works and help to keep her brother in line (she's the older sister after al
I really enjoyed this. I haven't read a whole lot of non-contemporary YA (or that isn't SF-Fantasy) and the setting in this is so strong and important it's almost a character on its own. I loved seeing blips of the women's movement through the eyes of Nora and Kathleen! Nora was a great character, and I'm glad I got the chance to see the world through her eyes - even when it was bleak. I wanted to give this book a hug when it was over. ❤️

This quote kind of says it all (from the Author's Note): "
This is sooooo much better than Yaqui Delgado. Also, it's just good. A great example of how people of color can exist in ALL historical fiction, not just Issue Books, and it also gets points for being about kids who may or may not go to college, but it's not guaranteed--AND that doesn't make you an underachiever, a loser, or unintelligent. This book is a great way to upset most socioeconomics narratives in YA. ...more
Kara Babcock
It was OK, I guess? I expected more fire, given the title. Burn Baby Burn is more of a slow simmer, though, without much payoff. I sped through it in an afternoon, and while it was not a bad book with which to pass the time sitting outside, it also wasn’t too remarkable.

There were a few places that Meg Medina made me angry—in a good way. It’s 1977. Nora Lopez is 17, and when she should be thinking about life after high school, she is instead forced to hold her family together. Her mother is on t
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
Grade: D

One Word: Bleak

Nora eagerly anticipates graduating from high school and moving out of the apartment she shares with her abusive brother and ineffectual, depressed mother. Son of Sam is on the loose, arsons burn buildings too close to home and money for rent and food is scarce. A new love interest and her supportive best friend give Nora some respite from her dismal home life and lack of support from her parents.

I was a teenager in 1977 and remember the hunt for Son of Sam, but I grew up
4.5 stars but worth rounding up - an ambitious project, really well done. I'd love some teen feedback on this one - recent historical fiction / coming-of-age stories can be a tough sell sometimes, and I wonder if this one might have more adult-recommending-to-teens appeal than teens gravitating to it on their own.

Especially strong: the narrative voice kept solidly to Nora's relatively innocent perspective without feeling like it was talking down.
Anna Smithberger
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a great, compelling read! The characters and the setting are both so rich, with a plot that pulls you forward. I especially appreciated a straightforward and nuanced depiction of growing up with an abusive sibling.
Sarah Laurence
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best YA novels I've ever read. Burn Baby Burn is on the National Book Award Long List and deserves to win. Review coming later. ...more
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent story about a really rough time in New York’s history.
Meg Medina is one of my favorite YA authors writing today. I really, REALLY liked her book YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS, and shout my love for it to the hills and any patron who will listen to me. So when I saw that Medina had written a new book called BURN BABY BURN and that it took place during the Summer of Son of Sam in Queens, New York, I ripped it off the shelf at work and hoarded it like dragon's gold.

Nora Lopez is starting out the last semester of high school, and she can't wait
bianca guerrero
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-new-york, novels, ya
YO THIS BOOK IS SO LIT. I found it in the YA at my local library and the synopsis on the back was intriguing so I checked it out, and I am so glad I did!!!

First, the plot and sociopolitical context are amazing. 18 year old cubana in Queens navigates poverty, an abusive brother, and teenage love while Son of Sam looks large, NYC is in financial ruin, a burgeoning feminist movement, and the 1977 blackout occurs. Medina puts a LOT of work into making the book as historically accurate as needed, dr
Prince William Public Libraries
Reasons to love Meg Medina: She's an author from Richmond, Virginia, and her books are great.

If you're thinking of the disco song when you see the "Burn Baby Burn" title, you've got an idea of the time. Set in NYC in the 1970s, Nora Lopez is aching to move out of her mother's apartment, and get out of high school. With a stressful mother, and a violent, drug addicted brother, Nora's ready to get out. She spends the summer working, suffering through the vicious heatwave, and living in fear of th
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another great little book I picked up because I saw that a Goodreads friend had read it. This app has greatly improved the overall quality of the books I pick up to read. Thanks, friends.

I read this book this evening, it kept me up till one in the morning. One of the most effective parts of the writing was the author's ability to make danger ever-present and the fear people felt about the Son of Sam in NYC palpable. It is the fictionalized account of a young woman who isn't safe on the streets o
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Great character development and I actually felt like I was in NYC during the scary time of Summer of Sam! I even could feel the heat as the author described temperatures and how the characters were feeling, even though it’s freezing outside as I read it. Nora had such a frustrating family situation that was painful to read while also living in fear just going out at night with friends.
Mark Taylor
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meg Medina’s 2016 young adult novel Burn Baby Burn focuses on Nora Lopez. Nora is seventeen years old as the novel opens, and she’s ready to leave high school behind. Nora isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life, but she knows one thing: she wants to move out of the small apartment she shares with her mother, Mima, and her younger brother Hector.

Burn Baby Burn is set in Queens in 1977, one of the worst years in New York City’s history. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy, a 25-h
Daniel Qiu
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Burn Baby Burn is the story of New York in 1977, and there's a serial killer named Son of Sam who is shooting young people, especially girls with brown hair. The book is narrated by Nora Lopez, a senior in high school who's parents are immigrants, and divorced. Other characters in the book include Papi, Nora's father, who is now staying with and has a child with another woman, Mami, Nora's mother, who works at a factory, Hector, Nora's brother, who smokes and does drugs and throws dangerously ph ...more
I received a copy of Burn Baby Burn from Walker Books Australia in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a lot about serial killers so I didn’t know much about Son of Sam going into this but I’d heard the name before. Even after finishing the book and reading the things he did I haven’t looked him up. Son of Sam wasn’t the focus of the book. It was set during the time that he was killing innocent people at random.

Burn Baby Burn didn’t just follow what happened the summer of 1977, it also
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing

I read this one for my YA book club (okay, I was the one who suggested reading it because it was sitting on my shelf) and I am so happy I read it for *me* rather than for my students.

I am often complaining that the books that get Printz attention and become compulsive purchases for librarians and easy adds to a summer reading list aren't the kinds of books that I think teens should be reading. Rather, they tend to be the kinds of books that adults who already love to read love to read.

I'm so glad I finally got to this! It's the first book by Meg Medina I've read or listened to, and now I need to get all of them.

It's a nuanced, moving, and fast-paced young-adult novel. The narrative voice and the ways Meg Medina developed a detailed picture of 1977 in Sunnyside, Queens, were outstanding. There's a broke NYC, Son of Sam, disco, punk, a heatwave, and a black-out, but there are also little things like Alexander's department store and Huckapoo shirts.

The MC's decisions to keep i
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I read this way too quickly so this will include some summary (light spoilers). I love the writing style and the focus on character - Nora and her family and friends are very believable. But perhaps the most interesting part of the novel is the setting - NYC in 1977 during the Son of Sam murders and the blackout. I'd heard of these events but had never thought of their implications and living through them with Nora was fascinating and horrifying. I Love the discussion of 70s feminism through bot ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
LBSCI 767: Book Review 1 3 Sep 29, 2019 08:53AM  
Around the Year i...: Burn, Baby, Burn, by Meg Medina 1 8 Apr 27, 2019 07:47PM  
Crazy for Young A...: Burn Baby Burn, by Meg Medina → Start Date: November 28, 2016 12 14 Dec 12, 2016 05:09PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Fake
  • Sisters Matsumoto
  • Easy Prey
  • Into White
  • Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration
  • Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis
  • Mexican Whiteboy
  • Like No Other
  • Disappeared (Disappeared, #1)
  • The Brontë Plot
  • The Silence Between Us
  • In Search Of Us
  • Fresh Ink: An Anthology
  • A Christmas Carol: What if Scrooge were a woman?
  • New York 2140
  • Picture Us in the Light
  • Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga, #1)
  • Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush
See similar books…
I'm Meg Medina, Newbery award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling novel Merci Suárez Changes Gears.

I am a Latina author of libros for kids of all ages. I'm about strong girls, tough circumstances, and the connecting power of culture. I am the author of several picture books, middle grade books, and young adult novels, including Burn Baby Burn which was long-listed for the 2016 Nation

Related Articles

What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
79 likes · 17 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Nothing ends. There is only transformation, ugly as it may be.” 3 likes
More quotes…