Predictable with insta-love and a front cover that appeals to girls (even though the main character is male). It had so much potential that unfortunately falls flat. Skip.
SUMMARY: Told in alternating perspectives. 18-year old Reece has been on shaky ground with his father ever since his brother Matt was killed in an accident four months ago. In an effort to force his father to “see” him, Reece joins the volunteer fire squad at the fire department where his father works. There, he meets Amanda, another teen volunteer, who worries every day that her new foster family will turn her out if she makes one misstep or acts on any interest in boys.
WHAT I LIKED: I loved the firefighter theme of this book. It’s something I haven’t seen much in YA literature, and I know that firefighters really do have a brotherhood that goes beyond blood. The author clearly knows a lot about firefighter culture and the family bond that exists among them.
I also enjoyed the complex relationship between Reece and his father. Nothing is easy for these two, and their dialogue is incredibly realistic. I enjoyed seeing their relationship evolve over the course of the novel.
The characters of Reece and his father. I love Reece’s introspective thinking and how he calls things as they are. Reece’s dad John is particularly complicated. He’s made many mistakes with Reece and has to get past his pride, anger, and grief in order to overcome them. Author Patty Blount skillfully makes the reader feel both Reece and John’s emotional struggles. John and Reece’s characters are among the most realistically drawn I’ve seen in quite awhile.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: The arson mystery. I figured it out by like page 50. And I hardly ever figure out the mystery in a book, so this one is clearly way too easy to work out.
Amanda’s voice. Amanda’s character nowhere near as interesting as Reece and John. I wish the novel was only told in Reece’s voice–it would have been stronger and more emotional. I got to where I just didn’t care about Amanda’s problems or the romance between her and Reece.
Insta-love. I’m never a fan. Even though Reece liked Amanda before he joined the force, he tells her he loves her awfully quick.
The front cover. Since so much of the story focuses on Reece and his father, I think putting a pretty girl on the cover is misleading and will limit the audience to mainly girls. That’s too bad–realistic fiction for male readers is needed, and with Reece’s voice and the arson/firefighter theme, Nothing Left to Burn could help fill that need. But that front cover will limit the audience to mainly girls. Again.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I’m split evenly on this one–it’s like the author got the hardest stuff (character development, dialogue, complex relationships) right, but the simple stuff (the identity of the arsonist, the front cover, Amanda’s character) didn’t get as much attention. It’s too bad, really, because Patty Blount is clearly a talented writer.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don’t have any intention of getting this one, mainly because I believe the front cover is misleading. This book should have a boy or maybe a building fire or fire truck on the cover, not a pretty, pensive girl. The publisher is really missing the mark with that front cover.
READALIKES: Some Kind of Normal (Stone)
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 4/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Appeal to teens: 3/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
- Language: medium-high; includes some F-bombs and sh**
- Sexuality: medium; kissing, sex (not described)
- Violence: mild-medium; arson, death
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; reference to beer