Monday, July 15, 2013

**REVIEW** Burning by Elana K. Arnold

Ben: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It's good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. Ben is lucky: he's headed to San Diego, where he's got a track scholarship at the University of California. But his best friends, Pete and Hog Boy, don't have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447.

Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash--especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her. . . and for him.


  This is such a beautifully written story of two people that are kind of figuring their lives out.  Told from both Lala and Ben's POV this read was powerful in its own way.  Some people may shy away because if the circumstance that cause the chain reaction of events: love at first sight.  Though the characters don't swoon and fall all over each other the connection is there and it brings upon something bigger than the both of them.  It was hard to put this one down because I honestly loved the beauty of the story.

  As stated the writing was beautiful but what made it so spectacular was that it brought the world to life.  I assumed seeing that it was the desert that it would be a bland and kind of desolate world and yet it wasn't.  The desert is beautiful in it's own way and with the shutting down town and the Burning Man event going on there is a lot of life in this particular barren land.  It seems rather that the events and the desert itself represent the start of things and yet an end as well.  I can't even begin to tell you all of the ways that make the setting perfect and beautiful in it own tragic ways.

  I seriously loved Ben.  He is a wonderful and good person but not without his faults.  An overachiever in his own rights but worked hard for everything that he had, including his all paid ticket out of there.  Despite the fact that his town is closing down and everyone/everything he knows and loves is being forced to relocate and find new jobs, he feels bad for being the one to leave it all behind, leave everyone behind.  This is both a fault and endearing at the same time.  It isn't until he has his fortune read by Lala that he realizes just how much he has over thought and how much he hasn't considered.  This includes an attachment to a girl that he never would have expected and a possible heart break that he could have never predicted.  Ben is very much the teenage boy that you would expect but he is also acts older than his years and knowing that feeling just made me have something else to relate to with him.  I was shocked and hurt by some of the reactions he had (especially when it came to his brother) but he is only human.

  Lala was a beautifully  written character and I could not get over that.  She isn't exactly someone that you would think you could relate to but it became clear that you could.  I would never claim to know much about Gypsy's but this book did a great job of educating me on that through Lala.  Although she loves her family and her community, through the power of reading she starts to question what she has always known for what might be possible.  It seems that she is made out of so much more than the arranged marriage and life set out for serving the males around her.  Nothing this girl did was rash because she had seen so much and though her heart called for things her mind ultimately ruled.  I felt for her and her restricted world but there was a part of me that said I didn't understand because I wasn't raised like her, with the values she was.  As a whole Lala is probably one of the most well rounded characters I have read and I actually wish I could have more of her.

  The book is kind of a coming of age story, about growing up and making decisions for yourself and no one else because ultimately your destiny is up to you.  The way it ended was not the perfect happy ending and that's okay with me.  Why should everything end with a happy ending?  Elana brilliantly stuck with her characters and ended it in a realistic and beautifully sad way.  There is a part of me that wanted something else and for it all to end a different way but it is what it is and I find myself unusually okay with that.  This book is kind of a YA that lightly touches on NA but not so much that it is too vivid for teenage readers.  Pick this up on a hot and sunny day if you like contemporary and real characters.

There it was-all our lives, everything we knew, just days from becoming a ghost town, a memory, a graveyard.  and we were driving back toward it.  What did that make us?  Mourners?  Or ghosts? -Ben

In very traditional families, like mine, a woman can not show her legs, but she may show her chest, for the body from the waist up is clean, from the waist down, unclean. -Lala

And any other day, in any other situation, I would have refused to play their game.  But this girl-she paralized me.  As long as she wanted me there, across the table from her, there was no way I could move. -Ben

Seven of Swords.  He wore a hooded cape, drawn up to hide his face, and he was clambering over a wall, his arms full of stolen swords.  The look on his face mirrored exactly the way I felt about leaving town- sneaky, underhanded, despicable. -Ben

I felt stupid.  I wasn't some close-minded redneck.  I knew that being gay is no more something you choose than the color of your eyes.  But I also knew about the value of hard work.  sure, I was a natural runner.  But I ran every day.  I made myself into an athlete. -Ben

I do not think I truly recognized how precious solitude was to me until it became clear that I would not have it much longer.  and growing i me like ivy, strengthening each day and chocking out everything else, was the resentment I felt at the impending loss of it. -Lala 


  1. Sounds like the inside matches the outside. Beautiful cover too! I will put this on my list to read soon and like the original concept of a Gypsy family. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful review!!

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughtful review!!


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