Saturday, May 5, 2012

Review: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Reviewed by Maggie: May 5, 2012
Published: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Preorder at AmazonKindleBook Depository

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

"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.


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this Maggie, your review is fantastic (I love the Cher/Dionne gif!)

    I had no idea what this was about, I just knew I had to read it because it's written by Jenny & Siobhan and I'm happy to hear that it's a great book, I like the theme of revenge! And I'm happy the cover correctly reflects the characters!

    1. Thanks, Mandee! I'm so spoiler-phobic that I try to keep my reviews as vague as possible, but then I'm like, Is anyone going to know what I'm talking about?

      I can't wait to ask Jenny about this book next week! :)

  2. Fab review Maggie, this book has been on my highly anticipated list ever since I heard about it! I love Jenny Han's work, but I also too need to read Siobhan Vivian's books! I can't wait to find out what the paranormal element is too! So glad you enjoyed this one! :)

    1. Jasprit, I think you'll really like this. I'm going to see her, Jessi Kirby, and Morgan Matson on Monday. Do you want me to get something autographed for you?

  3. LOL, I love the little anecdote about your family history of blunt honesty. Publisher's can't blame you and readers can trust you to be 100% honest! It's your heritage!

    I am that way too, but I have no excuse. ;P

    Great review! I love that this one is more about friendship than love. You don't see that often in YA.


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