Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: The Burning (Skogen)

AUTHOR: Jennifer Skogen
SERIES: Haunting of Grey Hills
PUBLICATION DATE: September 1, 2015
ISBN: 9781680760293
PAGES: 216
SOURCE: SLJ review copy
GENRE: horror, hi-lo
SETTING: Grey Hills, Washington, modern day
GIVE IT TO: high school, reluctant readers

SUMMARY: Fifty years ago, a deadly fire ravaged the halls of Grey Hills High School. Now, junior Macy Pierce returns to school after the tragic and sudden death of her older brother Nick. Macy begins to see strange things at school--a teacher who catches fire, hot rivets on her jeans, a transparent woman in a movie theater--which turn out to be ghosts. Together with some new ghost-hunting friends, Macy discovers that someone is planning to repeat the deadly fire at the upcoming high school lock-in.

WHAT I LIKED: The story begins quickly and is easy to get into, which will help encourage reluctant readers to keep reading. The plot is easy to follow and suspenseful. For about the first half, I enjoyed the story and looked forward to reading.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: So much profanity. If you have read my reviews before, you probably know that profanity does not much affect whether or not I purchase a book for my school. After working with middle and high school students for many years, I know that my students, even the most innocent of them, have heard profanity at school, in public, and often, at home.

Rather than picking apart every swear word in a book, I look at the purpose of profanity in the story. Does it help define a character? Does it make a setting or environment more realistic? In the case of The Burning, the answer is a resounding NO. This book has so much unnecessary profanity. F-bombs are all over the place, and all the characters speak as though the F-word is part of their everyday repertoire. Profanity is way overused here and adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

I did not connect with any of the characters. Macy just seems mean to Jackson, who is the only character I sort-of liked. And where are Dom, Sam, and Trev's parents? These three self-described "ghost hunters" are still just high school students. Where do they live? How do they buy food? Who bought Dom's car? Do they have medical and car insurance? So unrealistic that three teens could bounce around the USA solving ghost mysteries without gaining any attention from children's services.

Finally, we get to that abrupt ending. What happened there? Is my ARC missing a chapter? I reread the last chapter and still didn't "get" the ending. It just STOPS.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Burning has potential, but it does have its issues, too. Better in the first half than the second. School librarians need to be aware of excessive profanity.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Due to excessive profanity and abrupt ending, I have no plans to purchase this one.

READALIKES: Creepover series (Night)

  • Overall: 2/5
  • Creativity: 2/5
  • Characters: 1/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
  • Language: extreme--nothing is off the table here (60+ F-bombs, 23 shits)
  • Sexuality: mild; unwelcome kiss; "pawing" at jeans
  • Violence: mild; past suicide, arson/murder and attempted murder
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Macy's brother was killed in a drunk driving accident
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